Remember when Paul Pogba was used as a back-up option early in the season? In fact it was not all that long ago he was so far down the pecking order he could not even get a start in Leipzig with Fred suspended.

A strong run of form has turned that around for the Frenchman. Now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cannot bear to be without him.

Pogba has now started six out of seven games in 2021 for United. The only one he was rested for was the FA Cup tie at home to Championship side Watford. He will surely start again at the weekend when United visit Arsenal, such is the form he is in.

It’s quite the change in fortune for Pogba. Throughout this run, the fixture have set up where you would expect ‘he will be rested for this one’, but it hasn’t happened.

Manchester United v Sheffield United - Premier League
(Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

United could have gone without him last night against Sheffield United. Just as it seemed he might make way for Donny van de Beek in the FA Cup tie against Liverpool. Instead he played alongside him.

Van de Beek was back on the bench last night, and Pogba was again among the starters.

He has earned it

Pogba is not in the team on reputation. Solskjaer made clear earlier in the campaign this would not be enough.

Instead he has had to step up as a leader and raise his performance levels.

He has done so at both ends of the pitch. He has chipped in with crucial winning goals against Burnley and Fulham, while his defensive contribution in the victory over Liverpool was outstanding.

Solskjaer has played him in a variety of roles, on the left, on the right, centrally, with a mix of attacking and defensive duties.

 

Pogba told BT Sport: “It’s always nice to feel good, be in form, be fit, start playing again, go on 90 minutes for four, five games, to play all the games for six months, that’s what I want to do.”

The rhythm of regular football seems to be helping him. It did in the second half of last season. Pogba is being regarded like Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford again now, which wasn’t the case earlier in the campaign.

There was a stretch in late October and early November in which he started one of only four games, before then picking up an injury and missing the following two.

Defeat won’t change Pogba’s importance

Pogba won’t feel as though he had a strong game against Sheffield United. Nobody did.

He worked hard, managing 115 touches, winning three tackles, although struggled to make an impact offensively, creating only one chance.

Manchester United v Sheffield United - Premier League
(Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Should Pogba have played in this game? Perhaps not. United probably would have been better off with the energy of Fred in the middle. But we can only say this with the benefit of hindsight.

Starting Pogba first is how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thinks nowadays. He wants the Frenchman in at all times. He will probably start against Arsenal, although it is more likely to be in a wide role, with Fred and Scott McTominay likely to come back in.

As one of the team’s leaders and big players, Solskjaer will look to Pogba to show a response. A big game at The Emirates awaits.

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