2019 has been quite an upward journey for Paul Pogba. Returning to his club after winning the World Cup, the Frenchman had found himself on a different pole to then-manager Jose Mourinho. It all started with Mourinho reprimanding him of the timing of an Instagram post after the loss at Derby County in the Carabo Cup. A few minutes of rancor in front of the first team training the next morning started the rift between the best player in the squad and the manager. The episode summed up the situation at the club. Pogba desiring to be expressive and outgoing while Mourinho demanded structure and discipline in his system to the nth degree.
Paul Pogba‘s Resurgence is Part of the Mental Difference at Manchester United
Yet, when Manchester United were trailing Liverpool 3-1 at Anfield, Mourinho did not bring on Pogba from the bench, which ultimately brought an end to his stint at United. Two days later, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer took charge. The Norwegian previously claimed that he would build a team at United around Pogba when he ferried the reins at Old Trafford. A little more than two months, Solksjaer has lived up to the promise and the midfield maestro has been in the form of his life.
United have won ten of the interim boss’ 13 games in charge, drawing against Liverpool and Burnley while losing out to Paris Saint-Germain in Champions League. Pogba started off with a couple of assists against Cardiff City, which was followed by a couple of goals against Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day. Two days later, he scored two more against Bournemouth, ending the year perfectly.
Under Solksjaer, Pogba has rejuvenated his form. Previously, under Mourinho, Pogba was stifled and his playing position was limited to certain areas of the midfield. Solksjaer has given him freedom and placed him in his original position, on the left of a three-man midfield. The arrival of Solksjaer has seen Pogba’s, as well as the whole team’s, shackles come off. Nobody has to maintain significant defensive duties but they can go forward provided they can track back. This has been the motto under Solksjaer.
As a formation change from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 takes place, Pogba plays a free role in the midfield. Starting from the left along with a protective covering of Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera, Pogba often bursts into pace getting dangerous inside and outside the box. That has been the key difference in how Solksjaer has used the World Cup winner this season. He carries the ball into dangerous spaces, tormenting the opposition. Pogba gets into the final third from where he can shoot or make the final passes to Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial. Pogba’s positioning helps United to strike in high positions rather than dropping into shape and waiting for the chance.
The United Way
Pogba’s rejuvenation has a lot to do with Solskjaer’s appointment at the helm. Along with Pogba, a lot of Manchester United players fell victim of Jose Mourinho. They are enjoying listening to a progressive and positive note of the Norwegian. Freed of the restraints that were under Mourinho’s tactics, Pogba has returned to the midfielder he was in his Juventus days.
The positive vibe is back in the team. The mood around Old Trafford is up through Solskjaer’s cheerier approach and insistence to play ‘The United Way’. Solksjaer being a coach has done the most natural thing a coach should do. He allows his star man to play in his natural position and that has reflected largely in the Red Devils’ rise in the second half of the season.