United coasted to a 3-0 victory against Aston Villa two days ago, moving them closer to top-four with two points adrift of Chelsea and one from Leicester City in the Premier League. Having won five on the trot and remaining undefeated in their last 16 games, Manchester United will be looking to finish the ongoing campaign strongly as they look to seal a Champions League spot for next season at all costs.
A key figure in their good run of form in the recent times has been Paul Pogba, who is back in the Manchester United starting XI after having been absent for most of the season due to a supposed injury.
Often criticized for his lack of commitment and underwhelming performances, the Frenchman has shined in recent appearances. Since Project Restart, Pogba’s performances have earned him plaudits from pundits and fans alike. Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand applauded the playmaker for his recent displays when he told BT Sport (via Mail):
“Pogba has been a totally different player since the restart. The energy levels in his game, it’s the Pogba United paid £89m for four years ago. A big factor is undoubtedly the man he is playing with in the centre of midfield – Bruno Fernandes.”
“Pogba will not want to be shown up out there and that’s perhaps the motivation he needed. Solskjaer will be absolutely loving what he’s seeing from those two.”
“Fernandes is just doing what comes naturally to him and it’s been a huge boost to Pogba’s form – it’s freed him up to play as well.”
“There’s probably less pressure on him now because he knows that some of the burden of expectation is being shouldered by Fernandes.”
Ever since the arrival of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting in the January transfer window, there has been immense speculation regarding the World Cup-winning midfielder’s future at the club. Questions arose as to whether United could accommodate both the playmakers in their midfield setup. Pogba’s enduring absence from the starting XI further added to the speculation of him having lost his way at the club.
Surely, playing both of them together would congest their midfield and take up a valuable starting spot that needed to be utilised otherwise. Paul Pogba would naturally have to leave United and take his talents elsewhere because of Bruno Fernandes already establishing himself as a fan favourite. However, contrary to popular belief, its seems that United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has implemented a system which can utilize the talents and creativity of both players together and to devastating effect.
Playing as their number 10, Fernandes’s role has been to effectively link-up play with the forwards in the final third and this has constantly threatened the opposition goal because of his looming presence at the edge of the box. He has become a creative force at United with his deft passing and lethal shooting accuracy and his emulating displays have already earned him rave reviews from pundits and fans alike.
With the burden of creating plays now being shared by the Portuguese, Pogba gets to play in a deeper role, alongside Nemanja Matic in a double pivot. With his physicality and skill, the playmaker has comfortably taken to his position by winning balls, maintaining possession, and picking out accurate passes from deep which effortlessly breaks down opposition defences in split seconds. By gods grace, United seem to have successfully added both defensive solidity and attacking prowess in their new look line-up and recent results have only validated this belief.
In addition to their on-field prowess, Bruno Fernandes has also spoken up about their off-field friendship and his ambition of linking up with Pogba in European fixtures. Speaking to ESPN Brasil, the Portuguese playmaker said,
“We are players who take risks. We try to assist, we try different things, and it can be good for both of us. We have the ability to get to the box and score goals.”
“We are players who create many opportunities during the game, and that could increase the number of big chances for Manchester United. I believe that with Paul coming along, we will become even stronger.“
Manchester United have 4 games left to play in the Premier League and are still in the race to win the FA Cup as well as the League Cup. Ensuring a top-four spot along with either of the two domestic trophies, or even both should motivate the Old Trafford bosses to offer a new contract to their talented Frenchman.
Still only 27, Paul Pogba will be entering his prime and can lead Manchester United to the heights of the Ferguson era that we all had envisioned with his record breaking transfer back in the day. For now, Manchester United fans are heading for an exciting future with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team finally taking shape.