Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Pogba problem

Paul Pogba’s performances for Manchester United have divided opinion since the day he arrived back from Juventus in 2016.

Many believe the Frenchman has underperformed during his second stint as a Red Devil. His efficiency and ability are constantly debated, his commitment to the club is often questioned and his discipline in-game is heavily scrutinised.

The plot begins to unravel when you examine Paul Pogba the football player very objectively. His talent is obvious, glaringly so, but it’s his lack of fundamentals that constitute several chinks in his seemingly complete midfield armoury.

Perhaps as a consequence of being taller, stronger, quicker, and better than his peers in his formative years, his footballing basics are lacking. He’s a good dribbler but not press resistant, a brilliant passer but not consistently accurate, a decent playmaker but can’t quite unlock defences at will, and a goal threat, always lurking, but never quite sufficient.

Paul Pogba, Manchester United.
Pogba’s ability and skill are glaringly obvious but his talents seem out of place in a working Manchester United side. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY ALEX LIVESEY/GETTY IMAGES.

He’s unconvincing when deployed deeper, unable to track runners, and help maintain a solid team defensive structure. When deployed in a more offensive role, he looks more comfortable but lacks the skill set to be a consistent threat to opposition defences.

He’s struggled to nail down a position at United since his first season where he was predominantly deployed as a deep-lying playmaker by Jose Mourinho. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been bestowed with a similar headache.

He can’t deploy Pogba as a no. 10 because he’s now got an embarrassment of riches in the position. Bruno Fernandes is lethal, Donny van de Beek is patiently waiting on the sidelines to pounce, and Juan Mata on his day brings class, composure, and selfless running Pogba can sparsely replicate.

Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United
Bruno Fernandes captained Manchester United against PSG and put in another excellent performance, scoring from the spot and working hard for the team from the no. 10 position. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY METRO UK.

When Ole tries deploying Pogba deeper, the team’s offensive power goes up a notch but the defensive shape suffers as a result. United’s back four often get exposed multiple times on days like this, leading to several defensive lapses, chances conceded, and inevitably, goals against.

The more industrious Fred and Scott Mctominay provide work-rate and adequate cover for the defence which Pogba lacks, and the United team looks a stronger unit overall without him in it.

The performances away at Newcastle and Paris St Germain are a testament to just how good the Red Devils can be without the Frenchman and the United boss will eventually be faced with a big decision to make.

Get the best out of Pogba or get the best out of Manchester United? Judging by the team selection in the last two matches, Solskjaer just might be leaning towards the latter.

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