Will 2017/18 mark the revitalization of Pogba?
Manchester United have begun their 2017-18 campaign in outstanding form. Following their 4-0 victory over West Ham on the opening weekend, the Reds maintained their aggression and determination away to Swansea to record another 4-0 triumph.
One man integral in both events was Paul Pogba. The Frenchman had received endless criticism last season for his inconsistent form. Many were aware of his talents but for one reason or another (a hefty price tag comes to mind), Pogba underperformed for his team. It's easy to get carried away after two games and award Pogba continuous praise but the signs are clear to see that this could be the season to revitalise United's number six.
When Pogba joined United in the famed move from Juventus last summer, he came to Old Trafford off the back of a tiresome Euro 2016 tournament with France where his nation reached the final.
As a result of the enduring event, in addition to the length of the transfer saga, Pogba came to United without the preferred pre-season preparation. Could this have been a key factor in his underwhelming first season back in Manchester?
For the majority of the previous season, Mourinho would deploy Pogba as one of the two sitting midfielders in his 4-2-3-1 system, regularly stationed next to Ander Herrera. Pogba would often be too disciplined to be able to roam forward due to the threat of leaving Herrera, who isn't a natural defensive midfielder, behind him exposed to a counter-attack.
There was also a brief spell towards the end of 2016 when Mourinho set up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Pogba playing as a left-sided central midfielder. It's a position where Pogba is relatively experienced having often plied his trade at Juventus in a similar setup. The signs of improvement were evident, as Pogba upped his performance with the protection of Carrick and Herrera to the side of him.
This summer, however, United were able to capture Nemanja Matic from title rivals, Chelsea. The Serbian is a two-time Premier League winner, and having previously worked with Mourinho, he is a tried and trusted option for the gaffer to complement Pogba's ability.
Matic is proving to be a valuable member of the team already, not only because of his own technical ability but because Pogba has fewer restrictions to contribute to the attacking play. Evidently, he is performing considerably better with Matic as the enforcer.
'Agent P'. That's the name dubbed to Pogba after his influential role in Romelu Lukaku's £75 million move from Everton. Social media escalated into a roar when pictures and videos of the duo enjoying themselves together on holiday emerged. Lukaku has even spoken of Pogba's antics to make the Belgian opt for the Red Devils over his former club Chelsea. He told them, according the Metro:
‘I spoke with Paul a lot, obviously.' ‘We spent our holiday together.'
‘I told him that I was thinking a lot about signing for United, something was telling me [to do it].'
‘I live near Manchester so, when I was coming to the city [centre], I would drive past Old Trafford and ask my mates what they thought.'
‘Me and Paul, we’d go to the city to have dinner and he’d drive past Old Trafford on purpose.’
Playing alongside someone personally close to Pogba, as Lukaku is, has seemingly benefitted Pogba as he appears happier on the pitch.
Now that a fresh season has commenced, a fresh Pogba is running riot in midfield
Last season, Pogba only managed to score twice after ten games in the Premier League, compared to this campaign where he has already hit the net in each of the opening games. Both goals were of high-quality too, with the first being a well-placed shot outside of the box to wrap up the 4-0 victory at Old Trafford and lately a delightful clip over the onrushing keeper for the third goal vs Swansea.
It'll be interesting to see how long Pogba can maintain his form and how far he can take United with his performances.