Paul Pogba has come alive since Manchester United let Jose Mourinho and instituted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as interim manager, scoring four goals in four matches in a collection of spectacular performances.
Fellow Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera has hinted that Pogba’s explosion under Solskjaer is due to the new boss’s tactics that specifically revolve around the Frenchman, with the other midfielders playing a supporting role.
“I think Nemanja Matic and me, and the other players, we have to help him to make him feel free and that’s what we’re doing,” Herrera said prior to Manchester United’s FA Cup match against Reading on Saturday. “When he is in the opponent’s half he has that magic to change the game, so we are really happy for him.”
That may not be intended as a thinly veiled shot at Mourinho, but it is easy to be digested as one. Mourinho was often criticized for shackling Pogba in his tactical layout, forcing the 25-year-old to stay home and defend, robbing him of his brilliance up front. Under Mourinho, Pogba appeared frustrated with his role and his off-the-field clashes with the Portuguese boss were made quite public. Now, it seems Pogba has been made the central figure in the attacking build-up, completing an enormous 300 of an attempted 352 passes in the four matches since Mourinho’s dismissal, good for an 85% pass completion rate.
Herrera then suggested that because he is happier on and off the field, Pogba is now much more willing to contribute defensively when needed, rather than it being his exclusive job under Mourinho.
“He is very important for the club – on the pitch and off the pitch as well,” Herrera said. “He’s playing really, really well. Not only with the ball. I think as soon as we lose the ball he is ready to defend, ready to help the team. He is playing very simple and effective in our half.”
The good form from Manchester United under Solskjaer – albeit against Newcastle, Huddersfield Town, Cardiff City, and Bournemouth – has seen the Red Devils jump to 38 points, just three back of fifth-placed Arsenal and six behind Chelsea in the final Champions League spot. Manchester United next visits Spurs in Premier League play before hosting Brighton & Hove Albion and Burnley.