Monday Night Takeaway: Man Utd 3-0 Stoke City
Reaction from tonight’s game at Old Trafford.
Pogba = Player of the Year?
All the talk in early December was so loud about Kevin de Bruyne’s claim on the Player of the Year award that it may as well have been decided. Yet one month later and another outstanding performance from Paul Pogba and surely we have an argument that such talk was at least premature.
The stats which were used to justify De Bruyne’s admittedly incredible season (and no-one should doubt that the Belgian is having an incredible season) now seem to pale in comparison to Pogba, who has played ten matches fewer than the City star, and has the same number of assists.
It speaks volumes that those critical of Pogba still use the ‘absent in big games’ point despite it having almost no relevance considering the player was injured for those highly reported games at Liverpool and Chelsea. He was suspended and absent against City. In fact, the one big game he did play this season was at Arsenal, where he was the most influential player on the pitch by a considerable distance. In the light of De Bruyne’s own ineffectual display (by his own high standards) at Anfield, it seems a curious thing to criticise Pogba for.
Tonight the French midfielder gave a masterclass; his range of passing and his influence on the game was simply head and shoulders above anyone else.
Martial Stakes A Claim
..for a first team place. He was recalled into the side against the backdrop of that familiar Jose Mourinho rally cry about a player being ‘willing to play’ through the pain barrier. In putting his hand up for availability he impressed the manager; in his display he impressed every United fan. His stunning goal identified the difference between what he offers as opposed to Marcus Rashford – a clinical edge which is devastating if you give it time. His assist was the icing on the cake.
Praise For the Boss
There can barely be any higher praise for Jose Mourinho than to say once more that this was a game which looked so much like a Sir Alex Ferguson-managed Manchester United game. United looked fluid, in control, and yes, maybe at times, a little complacent, but very much a Ferguson-esque team.
People with short memories forget how these routine wins under Ferguson tend to be and so, despite their infrequency in the more recent years, these wins and performances go under-appreciated. Because our own supporters react in such a nonchalant way to them, well, so too do the press.
But just as he receives somewhat warranted criticism for his approach to some matches, he should receive praise for the good things. Two goal of the season candidates in one game which was won comfortably is not a bad evening out.