Paul Pogba’s performances at Euro 2020 have largely been outstanding for France.
It has led to many questions as to his role at Manchester United and why he is often shunted out into a wide role rather than playing in the middle.
There are many differences between international and club football of course, and we have seen the best and the worst of Paul Pogba at United over the past five years.
For many it is perplexing that Fred is preferred in midfield to Pogba, but this overlooks the many positive sides of the Brazilian’s game which are often more suited to the fast paced Premier League.
United are more aggressive with Fred in the side
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants United to press opponents and Fred is one of the best at doing so.
FBRef.com data shows Fred was United’s best player for applying successful pressures last season. He did so 200 times in the Premier League, while Pogba managed 99.
Fred was also the fourth best player at applying pressures in the attacking third. Pogba was down in ninth.
Brazil midfielder Fred won the most amount of tackles of any United player with 55. Pogba was on 26. 10 of Fred’s tackles were in the attacking third, with four for Pogba. That’s despite Pogba often being positioned further forward.
Fred made 62 successful blocks, while Pogba made just 22.
Fred helps United get on the front foot and close opponents down. What he can sometimes lack on the ball with his creativity, he makes up for it off it with his industry and hard work.
United have to get that balance right, and the addition of Jadon Sancho will likely decrease Pogba’s attacking opportunities in the attacking positions.
The Europa League final saw Pogba selected instead of Fred, and it did not work out too well. Scott McTominay was the pick of the starting duo.
If United are successful in signing a defensive midfielder, Pogba will be the player fans want to start alongside him.
There will certainly be games where the Frenchman is better suited and his creativity is required. If he can play like he has at the Euros then he will be first choice.
But don’t underestimate how important Fred is to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s style, and to making the rest of the attack tick.
He is thriving for Brazil with a top defensive midfielder alongside him too, Casemiro, creating three chances in their win over Colombia.
Fred deserves more respect than he gets, and his contribution towards United’s second placed finish last season should not be glossed over.
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