Midfield trio show United can succeed without Paul Pogba

Manchester United returned to action after the winter break with a 2-0 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

That win took them to within three points of the top four and Fred and Nemanja Matic played as well as anybody.

Paul Pogba was not in the matchday squad given his injury but his agent Mino Raiola made sure he kept him in the spotlight with a tweet posted minutes before kick off in west London.

Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Midfield masterclass

Fred continued his strong season with a masterclass at Stamford Bridge, having more touches than anyone else in red with 83.

He was energetic, fearless in taking possession from the defence and showed his spiky side sticking up for Anthony Martial down in the corner in the second half.

No United player made more tackles than his three and his six crosses was also a high for any Reds man.

As for Matic, he returned to his former club and did what he could to get United on the front foot, even during a first half in which Solskjaer’s side were sloppy in possession at times, recording a pass success rate of 85 per cent.

Bruno Fernandes looks a level above anything United have in the ranks and marries that with a professionalism and endeavour Pogba has seldom mustered since returning to the club in 2016, and deservedly scooped a second straight man of the match award.

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Pogba sideshow needs to end

There will be some who read this and think that on a night where United clinched a crucial victory, why is Pogba still being written about?

That’s exactly the point, in some respects. As a united Reds side were about to lay down a marker in the race for the top four, Raiola ensured the Pogba sideshow rumbled on.

With Scott McTominay to come back in as well, United’s midfield options don’t look too shabby looking forward to a future without Pogba.

There are the makings of a future there, based on a more harmonious approach on and off the pitch, even if it means sacrificing Pogba’s individuality in midfield.

He is looking more replaceable than he ever has done before.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.