Paul Pogba “wasn’t ready” to take part in Manchester United’s clash at Burnley on Saturday despite returning to full fitness after being out since September with an ankle issue.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer left Pogba out of the 18-man squad for the trip to Turf Moor, which was a surprise as the French midfielder had come on for the final 30 minutes and at half time against Watford and Newcastle United respectively in their last two games.
Speaking after the 2-0 win which sent United fifth and closed the gap on the top four to just one pointafter the 2-0 win which sent United fifth and closed the gap on the top four to just one point, Solskjaer revealed that Pogba hasn’t suffered a setback but didn’t feel ready to play at Burnley.
“He’s been out for a long while, and he didn’t feel right, he reacted to that one [against Newcastle] so we’ll just have to take our time and get him ready for next time,” Solskjaer said. “He wasn’t ready today because he has not really done too many games, and he’s had two in three days or whatever, two performances. So he just needed another day of recovery probably.
“When you’ve been out for such a while it’s always going to take time before you are 100 per cent. Today I thought Fred and Nemanja [Matic] played really well. And of course, we got two real players out there. I don’t think many of you would think three or four months ago that Fred is going to be one of the best players away at Burnley, at Turf Moor. But he was excellent.”
This was actually a really smart move from Solskjaer. Playing Pogba in a physical game away at Burnley after he’d returned from there months out injured was not a risk worth taking, especially with Scott McTominay now out for “three to four weeks” after knee ligament damage. Pogba should be eased back in and his quality on the ball against Watford and Newcastle totally changed the dynamic for United when he came on to the pitch.
With a trip to Arsenal up next on Wednesday, Pogba will probably start in what is a huge game for the Red Devils to jump further ahead of another team battling to try and sneak into the top four.
United also face Man City in the League Cup semifinals in January and face Wolves in the FA Cup third round in a season-defining few weeks. Whatever you think of Pogba and his inconsistency over the last few seasons, there’s no doubt United need his quality on the ball for these massive games coming up.