EPL

Pogba becoming key to Man Utd as Maguire applauds Frenchman's resurgence

By Sports Desk January 21, 2021

Harry Maguire has paid tribute to Paul Pogba following his match-winning goal in the 2-1 victory at Fulham, commending him for his form.

It was not so long ago that Pogba's United future appeared to amount to little, as his form at the start of the season was poor and his agent Mino Raiola claimed he was "finished" at Old Trafford.

Raiola's comments came as recently as December 7, two days after Pogba had played a pivotal role in a 3-1 comeback win at West Ham and on the eve of a crucial Champions League trip to RB Leipzig, that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men ultimately lost and suffered elimination.

At the time, that West Ham game was Pogba's first Premier League start in over a month due to a foot injury, but since then he has rarely been out of the team, the time off seemingly doing him some good after Solskjaer had suggested his slow start to the season was caused by his contracting of coronavirus.

He almost won the weekend game against Liverpool as he saw a fine opportunity thwarted by Alisson, but he did deal the decisive blow at Fulham on Wednesday, a wonderful left-footed strike from distance leaving Alphonse Areola helpless, and United captain Maguire was thrilled.

"Paul doesn't have a weak foot," Maguire told MUTV. "You can see Paul, over the last month or so, he's starting to get his fitness back and credit to Paul.

"Coming back into the team and doing what he's doing at the moment is great for us. He's a big part of the dressing room, he's a big player for us.

"We know he can produce moments of brilliance. For sure, I hope he carries on and I'm sure he will."

POGBACK IN BUSINESS

Opta data backs up Maguire's assertion that Pogba is proving himself a "big player" for United at the moment.

Since kick-off in the West Ham win, only Marcus Rashford (five) and Bruno Fernandes (four) have scored more than Pogba's three in the Premier League, but two of those have also been winners.

Pogba is stepping up when others are not, dragging United over the finish line in some cases, while his influence in the aforementioned West Ham win was significant. He took the game by the scruff of the neck with a glorious equaliser that set the tone for one of many United turnarounds this term.

There has been more to him than just scoring the occasional goal, however. The Fulham win showed how his overall influence has grown, as his 85 passes was a high among United players and his 106 touches of the ball was second only to Aaron Wan-Bissaka (109).

Since December 5, he is averaging 53.2 successful passes and 84.9 touches per 90 minutes played in the Premier League – the only United players with better averages in those metrics (Nemanja Matic and Alex Telles, respectively) have played less than half as many minutes as Pogba.

Before December 5, Pogba was making 46.1 accurate passes every 90 minutes and having 79.4 touches on average – while not a huge increase in the latter, there were several players seeing more of the ball than him, now there are not.

While Pogba's future is bound to become a bone of contention again sooner or later and provide another irritating distraction in the soap opera that has been his association with United, for the time being at least he is giving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a dependable alternative to Bruno Fernandes in midfield.

With the Portugal star's performances on the wane a little lately amid suggestions of fatigue, Pogba's resurgence is a timely boost as the Red Devils look to firmly plant themselves atop the Premier League table.

Related items

  • Man Utd 'destroyed' by Brentford in first half and only deserved a draw - Frank Man Utd 'destroyed' by Brentford in first half and only deserved a draw - Frank

    Manchester United were "destroyed" in the first half of their 3-1 win over Brentford, with Thomas Frank claiming they only deserved a draw at most. 

    United failed to register a single shot on target in the opening period in west London on Wednesday, while David de Gea was forced into three saves from Mathias Jensen and Ethan Pinnock. 

    After Cristiano Ronaldo sent a header against the crossbar at the start of the second half, Anthony Elanga put the Red Devils ahead with their first shot on target. 

    Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford put United out of sight and secured a 300th Premier League away victory for the club, with Ivan Toney netting a late consolation for Brentford. 

    "Unbelievably proud of my team. I think we are the smallest club in the Premier League, Manchester United are probably the biggest. The way we played in the first half, I think we destroyed them," Frank told BT Sport. 

    "We should have been up at least 2-0, they didn't have a sniff, nothing. We created five, six chances and three huge chances. Man United deserved a maximum of a draw. I think they are unbelievably lucky. 

    "Of course you need to take your chances, I know all that c**p. But the performance, I'm proud of that. They changed the system against little Brentford. I'm so, so proud of my team. 

    "[It was] one of those nights, it's football. Fair play to De Gea, a very good performance. If we get those chances again one will go in the back of the net. 

    "Our intensity killed them, we showed that in the first half. We pressed them, when we had to we defended low, we won the second balls, we played behind and ran behind them. We played the Brentford way in the first half. 

    "The game opened up. They hadn't had a chance before their goal. Of course, I know that's why they pay 72 million [pounds] for [Jadon] Sancho, who's not even included in the team. That's why, that little bit of brilliance created the first goal. 

    "Of the three goals, the second is most disappointing and difficult to come back from. There were huge positives. I think the way we smashed them in the first half was fantastic, so proud of my team." 

  • 'Atletico must put heart, head and shoulders in the face of what is happening' - Simeone 'Atletico must put heart, head and shoulders in the face of what is happening' - Simeone

    Diego Simeone has demanded his players give their all to get Atletico Madrid's season back on track but admitted they are "competing well and have the desire" after being knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Real Sociedad on Wednesday.

    Goals in each half from Adnan Januzaj and Alexander Sorloth were enough to consign the Rojiblancos to a 2-0 defeat at Reale Arena, their seventh loss in their last 12 games in all competitions.

    It means that it has been four seasons since Atletico reached the quarter-finals of the Copa dey Rey, having not done so since the 2017-18 campaign.

    It is the second time in six days that Atletico have been eliminated from a cup competition, having lost 2-1 to Athletic Bilbao in the semi-final of the Supercopa de Espana last week in Saudi Arabia.

    Speaking after the game in San Sebastian, Simeone urged his players to rescue their season. They are due to play Manchester United in the last 16 of the Champions League, and sit in fourth place in LaLiga, though a sizeable 16 points behind leaders Real Madrid.

    "We must put our heart, our head, and our shoulders in the face of what is happening to us," he insisted. "We need to contribute together starting with the game on Saturday [at home to Valencia].

    "It's a shame because the team is competing well and has the desire to get out of this uncomfortable situation.

    "We're in a phase wherein, like many say, the dynamic is not good. We need to think about the positives. I'm optimistic and I believe in my players.

    "Football is decisive in both penalty boxes and the more decisive you are, the closer you get to winning. Hopefully, we can again find the clean sheets that were once criticised but that now hold more weight. With stability, everything else becomes easier.

    "It's a problem of football, of life. Every day is not the same. Last season was magnificent and this one is being very difficult.

    "The opportunities are there, we have the league and the Champions League. I will not stay still, that's for sure."

    Simeone was also asked about an incident prior to the game at Reale Arena when La Real fans were seen to throw objects at the Atletico bus as it pulled towards the stadium.

    "We were on a path surrounded by Real Sociedad fans, who I understand are always there, but they were protected by the people who should have dealt with the situation. Suddenly, there was no protection and everyone saw that."

  • Inzaghi delighted with Inter fightback in Coppa Italia triumph Inzaghi delighted with Inter fightback in Coppa Italia triumph

    Simone Inzaghi expressed his delight with Inter's reaction as his side came from behind to beat Empoli in the Coppa Italia last 16.

    Empoli stunned the Serie A leaders in the second half as substitute Nedim Bajrami cancelled out Alexis Sanchez's opener before the visitors fortuitously took the lead at San Siro when Ionut Radu deflected into his own net.

    Andrea Ranocchia levelled things up with a stunning, acrobatic stoppage-time equaliser to send Inter into extra-time in the last 16 of the competition for the fourth time in their last eight outings.

    Substitute Stefano Sensi stepped up to deliver the decisive strike after 104 minutes, Inzaghi's side now boasting 20 different scorers this season – more than any other team in Europe's top-five leagues in all competitions.

    Despite squandering an initial one-goal lead, Inzaghi was pleased with what he saw from his side as they made the quarter-finals for the 18th time in their last 19 seasons.

    "I think we had an excellent first half, where we found the goalkeeper who should be congratulated for two, or three, difficult saves," Inzaghi told Inter TV post-match. 

    "In my opinion, we deserved a few more goals, then in the second half we lost clarity, we stretched out. In the spaces, they showed the qualities they have. 

    "We went down, we changed players, we changed formation, but the boys gave everything on the pitch, they didn't give up and we go to the quarters with a lot of confidence.

    "We suffered, we went under, but I take the big reaction."

    Inter return to Serie A action on Saturday when they host Venezia.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.