Paul Pogba proves quality with a different type of performance

Against Southampton on Monday night, Paul Pogba put in his worst game for Manchester United post-lockdown.

The Frenchman played a part in giving away a goal and was substituted after an hour.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Pogba might not have been at 100 per cent, telling the MEN in midweek that the midfielder was a question mark heading into the match.

So ideally, Pogba would have been rested on Thursday night for the away game at Crystal Palace, especially with a FA Cup semi-final on the horizon.

Yet such is United’s situation at present, that Solskjaer cannot afford to rest Pogba, with intense pressure on every game as the team look to clinch a Champions League spot.

All things considered then, the performance Pogba put in across 90 minutes at Selhurst Park was even more commendable.

Photo by Peter Cziborra/Pool via Getty Images

A different role

With Nemanja Matic rested from the start against Palace, Pogba found himself partnering Scott McTominay in central midfield.

Pogba played deeper than he often does when he is at his best, and worked hard to link up with the defence and start to build United’s attacks.

It was a difficult task and this was no virtuoso performance from the Frenchman.

If you were looking for highlights of long range shots and defence splitting passes, this was not the game.

Instead it was a performance of hard work, grit, closing down the opposition and battling for his team. It was the type of display Pogba has at times been accused of lacking.

In total Pogba had 101 touches. Only Bruno Fernandes (90) got near in United’s midfield. Luka Milivojevic was Palace’s busiest player, with 64 touches.

After Nemanja Matic came on in the 63rd minute, Pogba’s task eased a little. The Serbian has that effect of making the game easier for his teammates, and United’s midfield had a little more balance.

What do United do with Pogba next?

Pogba does look like he needs a rest, and United have a decision to make on Sunday.

While it may seem foolish to leave Pogba on the bench for the FA Cup semi-final, it will be a consideration for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he assesses the toll of this run-in on his players.

Photo by PETER CZIBORRA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Champions League place battle is critical to United’s future, financially and from a sporting perspective.

Pogba could be saved for the games against West Ham and Leicester City in the Premier League next week, especially after putting in such a busy shift on Thursday night.

We would imagine Pogba will be desperate to be involved in every game. This latest display was a sign he is willing to dig in, and fight for every ball, even when he is not at 100 per cent fitness.

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