Where does Paul Pogba fit in on his Manchester United injury return?
Background Image Via: Wikimedia Commons/Daniel. CC BY 2.0.
Back in September's end, Manchester United fans rejoiced as Paul Pogba made his injury return against Rochdale. The mercurial Frenchman had spent the two weeks prior to said Carabao Cup match sidelined with an ankle problem. Unbeknown to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the Red Devils medical team, Pogba would only make matters worse.
We're now six weeks and two international breaks on from that game. We haven't seen Pogba since. However, the 26-year-old is progressing and all roads are pointing towards a comeback against Manchester City in early December. Although it has been just over a month-and-a-half, plenty has changed in the absence of United's #6. First and foremost, Brazilian midfielder Fred is starting to look somewhat like the big-money signing that the Old Trafford outfit thought they were getting back in 2018's summer. Then you look at Andreas Pereira, who's playing better further afield (where Pogba would usually be deployed).
Not only that, it has meant a slight change-in-formation. Pereira has been used in the #10 role of late, meaning Anthony Martial et al aren't anywhere near as isolated. That requires the two midfielders in behind (Scott McTominay and Fred) to sit deeper - which isn't a job that Pogba is best-suited to. So where does that leave the Frenchman?
Look, everyone knows he's going to waltz back into the team as soon as Pogba is fit. He's United's most talented and probably best player. Does Solskjaer go back to the three-man midfield? Or does he try him somewhere different, somewhere fresh, somewhere with potential to benefit the whole team...?
As I'm writing this I'm honestly not quite sure why this hasn't happened before, but Pogba occupying that aforementioned #10 position seems to be a no-brainer. Pereira has been better lately, but no disrespect, he simply doesn't have the quality to make an impact in an offensive capacity against the better teams. That's why you pay big bucks to sign a world-class individual like Pogba.
You look at United's main problem this season; chance creation. In fits and spurts this term, carving out clear cut opportunities became a major issue. Juan Mata wasn't bringing the creativity, Lingard's run-making wasn't as crisp while Pogba was sitting too deep to have a positive effect on the game. Playing your most creative, visionary player further up the field can only help out in that regard.
Pogba is a risk-taker. It's the nature of his style and when he's at his best, the Frenchman plays the risk-reward game. Inevitably, he will turn over possession, but Pogba will also split open defences in manners that others simply can't. You sprinkle the 26-year-old into a front four alongside Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James. Phwoar, that has the potential to frighten any defence in world football due to the perfect blend of pace, precision, skill and guile. What's not to like?
First and foremost, though, it's about ensuring that Pogba's injury is completely healed before throwing him back into the mix. Ankle injuries aren't to be messed with and he's already been brought back prematurely before, so United have to manage him supremely carefully.
Perhaps maybe, the Old Trafford faithful will start to see the consistency that they've been craving for from Paul Pogba...