Paul Pogba is vital to Manchester United’s style of play under Jose Mourinho, that much we know.
The world record transfer is the anchor in midfield, but can also play a variety of roles, helping the Red Devils quickly switch from a defensively-rooted squad to a counter-attacking menace at the flip of a switch. He offers not only a conductor on the break, but also a versatile option who can influence play in any area of the pitch, and his manager gives him the freedom to do so.
With Pogba’s dismissal in the dying minutes of the 3-1 victory over Arsenal, United will now be without its most important player for its most important game of the season’s first half, the Manchester derby on December 10th against Man City, the club that has torched the rest of the Premier League thus far.
Manchester City’s season has caused whispers of an unbeaten season, and Manchester United needs to take every opportunity to catch up in the title race, and missing the Frenchman is a brutal blow in a critical match.
The red card itself was not the result of a petulant kick-out or a moment of carelessness. Rather, it was an unfortunate coming together that left the referee with no choice. As Pogba bears down the left flank on the ball, Hector Bellerin looks to complete a possession-stopping tackle, but his indecision on whether to go in on his feet or on the ground leads to an awkward attempt on one knee. Pogba, with a slightly heavy touch to recover and Bellerin’s entire body suddenly upright in front of him, he reaches for the ball and instead his cleats find nothing but Bellerin’s leg. The referee had no decision but to send Pogba off for a full stamp at pace, despite the lack of intent in the incident.
Now, the Manchester derby may not just be sapped of its most expensive player, but also of its energy. Jose Mourinho could choose to drop his entire squad behind the ball to defend, but without its usual counter-attacking venom or fluidity in formation. Should Pogba’s absence mean City victory, it has the potential to send the favorites a whopping 11 points clear at the top.
That could have a ripple effect on the rest of the season, and should Manchester City come away victorious, it would leave the rest of the Premier League in its dust before Christmas.