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Premier League 2018-19: Is it too early to say that Solskjaer has unleashed the full potential of Pogba?

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
12 Feb 2019, 18:48 IST

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been a huge talking point in the last two months, having seen tremendous success since being appointed manager of Manchester United in the December of 2018.

The news of Jose Mourinho's departure left many United fans relieved. That's because they believed he wasn't being able to deliver results with his tactics, and in addition was creating negative energy in the squad, case in point being Paul Pogba.

Even though Solskjaer still has a big challenge to secure the club's place in the top four and qualify for the Champions League next season, he has definitely made an impact on the team's performance. A lot of this can be attributed to him playing for Manchester United himself, having made 366 appearances and scored 126 goals for the club.

This not only shows that he understands the DNA of the club well, but also that he knows what it takes to keep the board and fans happy. And his expert handling of a player like Pogba has been the icing on the cake so far.

Pogba has scored eight goals and provided five assists in nine Premier League games under Solskjaer, with the Norwegian manager giving him more freedom on the pitch than his predecessor. This has definitely given the French midfielder more attacking options to explore during game time, and helped him capitalize on them as well.

His teammates seem to agree with this assessment, as Jesse Lingard was recently quoted by The Guardian as saying, "Solskjaer has brought back the Paul Pogba I used to know".

But the question still remains whether the Norwegian football manager has really unleashed Pogba's true potential.

 Paul Pogba celebrates after scoring one of his two goals against Bournemouth
 Paul Pogba celebrates after scoring one of his two goals against Bournemouth

Pogba was brought to United when the club was in desperate need of a creative force in the midfield. Under Mourhino, he was played mostly in the defensive 2 of a 4-2-3-1, where he was expected to deliver long passes forward and maintain his defensive position.

In such a role, Pogba had more to deliver defensively than offensively. Very rarely did Mourinho start Pogba in the LCM of a 4-3-3, where he would have had more contact with the strikers and frequently take shots at the goal.

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This obviously did not suit Pogba's playing style well and led to tensions between him and Mourinho over time, escalating to disturbing levels in the last 2-3 months of the Portuguese' tenure.

Under Solskjaer, we do see Pogba starting more in the LCM of a 4-3-3 or in the CM of 4-2-3-1, right behind the striker position. This definitely plays into his strengths and opens up more space for him to create chances and impact the game.

It is now time for Pogba to show how he consistently he can perform in a position he likes but was denied for a long time. To put this debate into further context, we definitely have to look at the record-breaking price tag of €105 million at which the French International was brought to United.

Although we have seen great success after Mourinho's departure, Pogba not only needs to match the fans' expectations of performing better under a more compassionate manager, but he also needs to match up to the expectations of such a huge price tag. We have seen several long stretches of Premier League games where Pogba has failed to make an impact.

In stark contrast, mid-fielders such as Kevin De Bruyne have performed consistently over the course of the last two years, hardly ever going off the boil.

The fact of the matter is that it is still too early to tell whether Pogba will continue performing well under the Norwegian manager. Consistency is key, and should be a determining factor in his eventual value to the team.

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