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Finding Paul Pogba's ideal role at Manchester United

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
897   //    19 Feb 2018, 12:36 IST

Newcastle United v Manchester United - Premier League
Finding Pogba's best position has been an issue at Manchester United

If you are Paul Pogba you might want to forget the past few weeks. 

In a recent interview, Jose Mourinho described Paul Pogba as a box-to-box midfielder. According to the 55-year-old, he said:

"It means you have to defend well, have the physical conditions to go to the other box, where you have to be good at scoring, creating, heading and then, when your team loses the ball, you have to go to the other box. Now people say a box-to-box has to play free of defensive duties."

I think nowadays with some pundits, agents, family members, I think the concept of the box-to-box is changing a little bit, but I just think - midfield players. For me, Paul is a midfield player. Not a left-back, or a striker."

Relationship with the manager

As a result of disappointing performances against Tottenham and Newcastle United in recent weeks, Pogba was substituted in the 66th and 63rd minute respectively. This was a clear indication that Mourinho was unhappy with him, which may ultimately result in damaging the confidence of a highly-rated player within the squad.

Pogba was, after all, signed to be United's chief force in midfield. Mourinho recently signed a contract extension until the summer of 2020 - this sort of speculation is unneeded and warrants questions over his handling of player disputes.

In order for him to effectively reduce excess workload on Pogba, he must determine whether he's an attack-minded or more defensively suited to fit in United's current setup.

Watford v Manchester United - Premier League
Pogba has often found himself the scapegoat for United's shortcomings

About his best position

Premier League football has evolved over the years and naturally, so have the formations. Having beginning with Sir Alex Ferguson's 4-4-2, we've now reached Antonio Conte's 3-5-2.

However, José does not appear too interested in changing from his rigid 4-2-3-1 formation. He loves having an out-and-out playmaker behind the striker - players including Wesley Sneijder, Eden Hazard, Deco, Oscar and Mesut Özil have graced this position in previous Mourinho sides.

Compared to these great players, Jesse Lingard lacks the knowledge, experience and general level of consistency to succeed playing in the number ten role.

A lot of pundits have referred back to Pogba's tenure at Juventus, where he played alongside two supplementary midfielders - who offered him the freedom to play as a floating midfielder.

Juventus FC v SSC Napoli - Serie A
Pogba flourished at Juventus, having been given the freedom to play further forward at will

Solution to the problem

If Jose Mourinho wants to continue playing a 4-2-3-1, he could potentially shift Lingard to the right-hand side and play Pogba directly behind Romelu Lukaku in attack. This would then free him from his defensive responsibilities, allowing him to play more expressively.

As opposed to regularly trying to recover possession off-the-ball, he'd be able to concentrate more on creating chances in the final third. Through the years, it's been clear to see that one of Mourinho's trends is to play counter-attacking football.

Playing Pogba in the attacking midfield role also increases the quality of passes towards his path, which would in turn, result in more goalscoring opportunities being created. By doing so, it would be a win-win situation for all.

Pogba himself has netted three goals and created nine assists in 17 Premier League matches this season, while the presence of Nemanja Matic alongside either Ander Herrera or Scott McTominay would help as supporting midfielders behind the Frenchman.

Burnley v Manchester United - Premier League
Matic has helped provide defensive solidity as part of United's midfield this term

The former won United's Player of the Season last year but has struggled for regular minutes this term, due to a dip in form. There are a wide range of possibilities that Mourinho can choose from and although this may be United's best year post-Ferguson, there's undoubtedly room for improvement in every department.

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