By Dave Marshall
It was somewhat telling that Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho substituted club record signing, Paul Pogba in the 63rd minute of the recent defeat to Tottenham at Wembley. While the entire United team were shambolic, Paul Pogba struggled to impose himself in the game, as the likes of Eric Dier and Moussa Dembele completely stifled the pair of Pogba and Nemanja Matic. Pogba looked very upset with Mourinho’s decision, stopping short of arguing with his manager. While the 24 year old Frenchman has looked the part this season, there has been a persistent issue as to the former Juventus’ man’s best position.
On Wednesday night, he was deployed as part of a midfield pair with Matic, an experiment that failed to materialise as Mourinho looks for the best fit for the team following the arrival of Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal. Pogba was heavily criticised by United legend, Paul Scholes earlier in the season for drifting and strolling through matches.
He responded in spectacular fashion, creating two goals in a win over Everton in the next game, but that game saw him play as the left midfielder in a 4-3-3 formation. The midfielder is such a versatile player that managers that use him tend to play him out of his favoured position, a mistake Mourinho is currently making. Mourinho has been criticised for not getting the best out of the player, with many feeling that the team should be built around the talents of the midfielder.
United suffered earlier in the season when Pogba was out injured, but many still feel he could do better than he is currently doing. He has the skill set to rival any midfielder in world football, as his traits of passing, technique and tactical awareness are up there with the very best. The arrival of Sanchez is expected to turn our team to a more attacking force, but the game at Wembley proved that it may not be as easy as first thought.
Pogba is more effective going forward, which has been evident on many occasions this campaign. Sanchez was part of an attacking trident alongside Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, which limited Pogba in the middle of the park. The way Mourinho sets up in big away matches is also up for debate, as he has won just once in the last 9 away games against the Top 6, drawing three and losing on 5 occasions.
Lingard cannot be dropped at the moment given that he is on top form. Same goes for Martial who has looked in perhaps his best shape since arriving at the club in 2015 while Sanchez, for his exceptional quality must play. Mourinho must find a system that accommodates his best players, as anything short of that may spell doom.
The Red Devils are 13 points behind bitter rivals, Manchester City who are running away with the league title, and Mourinho is running out of time to get the best out of his team, as the pressure of competing with Manchester City is becoming fever pitch given our huge spending. Pogba is central to any good thing we do, and Mourinho must find out how best to use him. It will do our ambitions good.