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

By Ryan Benson 21 January 2021 15
Pogba becoming key to Man Utd as Maguire applauds Frenchman's resurgence

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.

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Ryan Benson

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