Even though the sight of Scott McTominay and Fred starting in midfield came as little surprise, it was still slightly jarring to see Paul Pogba among the substitutes as Manchester United kicked off against Leeds.
Pogba was excellent on Thursday night as United won 3-2 at Bramall Lane.
The call was the right one from Solskjaer. McTominay in particular seized his chance, scoring two goals in the opening four minutes, and the result never looked in doubt.
Pogba was not even used from the bench. This was a very smart decision because it has helped to conserve his energy for upcoming fixtures against Everton, Leicester City, and Wolves.
Solskjaer rested Fred in the same manner against Sheffield United. The manager is rotating his squad sensibly at a key time of year, and so far it has paid off.
A message sent to the Premier League
United are in a strong position after this result, our second successive home victory.
It puts United up into third place, with a game in hand. Winning that would bring United just two points behind leaders Liverpool.
The way United won this game without Pogba, in complete control by scoring six times, it demonstrated real strength.
It was an ominous statement to the rest of the league that in a closely contested season, United have the depth and the quality to put up a title charge.
To be able to pull off a result like this with a £89 million asset unused on the bench, as well as players like Mason Greenwood sitting out and Edinson Cavani and Donny van de Beek just making late cameos, says a great deal.
A message sent to Pogba
Pogba’s future itself remains an unresolved topic, with United content for now to kick the can down the road until next summer.
If he does move on, so will Manchester United. Last season the players learned how to cope without the Frenchman for long stretches, as did manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
This game reinforced that for all of Pogba’s qualities, he is replaceable.
If he does not want to feel that way, he will have to step up his game, and become absolutely undroppable.
Pogba should be back in the line up over the upcoming matches, and he will have to continue to perform. Competition for midfield places is more intense than ever.
But whatever happens in the summer of 2021, this game against Leeds was a reminder that United will be just fine.
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