Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still can’t solve the Paul Pogba riddle… after dropping the Frenchman for Atalanta win, is the Manchester United manager really any closer to knowing his best team?
- Paul Pogba didn’t set the world alight for Man United after coming on vs Atalanta
- The Frenchman has struggled for form in recent weeks and was named on bench
- He came on before United mounted a comeback, but he didn’t change the game
- It is clear Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not trust Pogba but has other problems too
- Man United 3-2 Atalanta: Cristiano Ronaldo completes second-half comeback
Paul Pogba didn’t pull any punches in the wake of Manchester United’s lame surrender at Leicester on Saturday.
Fronting up to the television cameras, the Frenchman called for something to change at United.
‘We need to find what’s the problem,’ said Pogba solemnly.
Paul Pogba remains a problem for Manchester United after coming on against Atalanta
United mounted a comeback to win 3-2, but it would be wrong to say he changed the game
‘You need to find the right mentality, the right tactic to win these games. That’s my thought. We have time to think about it and then all together, we have to stick together and find the problem. We need to find something, we need to change something.’
After four days looking for the problem, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer found it. Turns out he thought it was Paul Pogba.
It felt like Solskjaer needed to make a statement after United’s defeat at the King Power Stadium, and the one he chose was to drop Pogba to the bench against Atalanta on Wednesday night.
There were certainly no complaints in the BT Sport studio. ‘It’s a big, big game for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his lack of trust in Pogba is evident,’ observed Peter Crouch.
The Frenchman said United had to ‘find the problem’ after losing to Leicester and his boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decided the problem was him
‘I think he has tried to trust him, he clearly wants to,’ added Paul Scholes. ‘But he has seen the lack of discipline; he will be disappointed.’
Pogba went missing at Leicester and not for the first time in a defensive midfield role that just doesn’t come naturally to him.
It is a damning indictment of United – and Pogba – that six years after his return from Juventus they have still to find his best position.
When Gary Neville talks about this being an ‘odd bunch’, Pogba is Exhibit A; a key figure in France’s World Cup and Nations League winning teams but a perennial under-achiever for his club.
Solskjaer does not appear to trust Pogba at present and is yet to find his best position
He has been most effective for Solskjaer playing wide on the left but that has denied one of United’s growing band of wingers – Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Amad Traore at the last count – a place in this team.
Rashford’s goal-scoring return from injury at Leicester was enough to persuade Solskjaer to bench Pogba here. To play a winger on the wing and return to his comfort blanket of Scott McTominay and Fred in defensive midfield against the dangerous Italians.
Did it work? Not really. They were two down inside half an hour and looked every bit as shambolic as they were at the weekend. Time and again they ran down blind alleys, resorting to hopeful long balls as the frustration grew inside Old Trafford.
Pogba was introduced in the 60th minute but his coach will have learned little from his display
Pogba’s replacement McTominay went to sleep when Davide Zappacosta crossed for Mario Pasalic to open the scoring, and was muscled out of the way when Merih Demiral headed the second.
Rashford pulled one back before Pogba replaced McTominay in the 66th minute. It would be wrong to say that he turned the game, but the facts show that United scored twice in the next 15 minutes.
So where does that leave Solskjaer three days before Liverpool arrive at Old Trafford? What did he actually learn here?
Pogba is not the only issue in the team, which is one capable of being woefully bad
The truth is probably not very much. United remain a group of talented individuals who can turn games like this around in sensational fashion, but also a team capable of being woefully bad.
Does Solskajer restore Pogba to the midfield or go with the tandem they call McFred once again? Does he put him back on the left at the expense of an attacking player? On this evidence, he might as well pick a team blindfolded.
On another dramatic Champions League night at Old Trafford, we at least learned that Pogba isn’t the only problem.