How do Manchester United get the best out of Paul Pogba?

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Manchester United’s solid start to the season has met turbulence in the form of three successive defeats, with many beginning to ask several questions of Jose Mourinho and his match-day line-ups. One of the biggest, and maybe most important, of those questions is how do Manchester United get the best out of Paul Pogba? His transfer fee was the highest that any club has ever paid for a player, adding a sense of urgency to find the answer to the question on the minds of United’s fans. Many are leading to believe that question is answered by the removal of one seemingly immovable figure in the starting line-up: Wayne Rooney.

“I don’t understand playing Rooney as a midfielder…Mourinho has to put his players in their best positions, which isn’t happening at the moment,” says Jamie Redknapp, who has never been shy to voice his opinions on Jose Mourinho, as seen above, and the two have traded words back and forth on a few occasions. Redknapp’s quote holds some truth and is actually in compliance, somewhat, with Mourinho’s answer on questions of Rooney’s best position in his first press conference as United boss.

How this relates to Pogba might have more to do with the formation, the players selected or just who you’re asking. A subjective belief which seems to hold some validity based on the Frenchman’s first few performances is that he is clearly not a holding midfield player. In a 4-2-3-1, he is being asked to anchor the midfield alongside Marouane Fellaini. Playing in a double pivot means that Pogba is tasked with duties such as tucking in for advancing full-backs, something which is not key to his skill set. His passing and movement is good, but he needs to be closer to goal to make more of an impact and justify his price tag. He should be running at players with the ball at his feet, creating chances and scoring, which is unlikely to happen with the current set-up. United have a host of talented midfielders who could come in to fill those positions, whilst Rooney’s omission (or changing his position to a number nine) would free up an advanced position for Pogba to thrive.

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If Mourinho insists on the 4-2-3-1, then the key change that must be made is an alternative to Rooney as a number 10. Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Paul Pogba have the potential to do so, and the latter’s employment in that position would put him in a similar role to the one he enjoyed at Juventus. In Italy, he had the solidity of a back-three behind him with wing-backs either side, and hard-working midfielders like Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira sharing the work-load in midfield.

Manchester United - Football tactics and formations

A system such as this would allow United to continue playing in a fairly similar manner, except now Pogba has more freedom to roam and utilize his long-range shooting ability, which he displayed briefly against Watford when he smashed a strike from distance against the crossbar. The inclusion of Michael Carrick in midfield would allow them to control the tempo of the game from deeper positions, and would probably end up looking like more of a downward pointing triangle in midfield.

The inclusion of players like Schneiderlin and Herrera would also seem beneficial to United as a collective unit, as they would offer more pace and movement than Carrick. United lost the midfield battle to Manchester City in the derby, and possibly even worse than being outnumbered there, they were out-thought and bypassed with ease. Fellaini is not a holding midfielder nor is Rooney a natural number 10, so the blame cannot entirely fall on their shoulders. What is required is not a major overhaul, but a tweak in midfield to get the balance right. It seems like that balancing act begins with dropping Wayne Rooney.

Overall, there is no real reason for concern about United. The pundits who lambast Mourinho for three-straight losses were the same ones who embellished his title-chances in pre-season when United added star-studded names to their side. Just before the international break, United enjoyed three-straight league wins and were seemingly untouchable. Narrow defeat to rivals Manchester City, a 1-0 Europa League loss to Feyernoord and a late collapse at Watford later, and suddenly the media is questioning Mourinho’s ability. If his record is anything to go by, then don’t write him off so early.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Ronnie is placed in a wrong position..he caint play in the middle his a Frontline not a middle fielder…let him switch between Ibrahimovic, rush Ford, martial, or Leangard in the front…he can be fine.

  2. Sometimes José needs to use the old Manchester squad in the

    middle FIELD …Carrick, Fellini, and Mata..add up on one of the three pogba, Young or Mmikitarian if needed

    frontline Rushford, Ronnie and Lengard for a start and add up one of the three martial or mephis or Ibrahamovic if needed.

    Keep the back line…Shaw, smalling, Bailey, and Valencia.

    This team did beat man city last year..let them play the 4-3-3 then switch if needed…Man united was not playing good with Watford at all we where losing the ball at most times and poor attacking in the middle field and front line…somehow these players don’t are too selfish with the ball don’t pass each other properly in the middle and front line..back line is ok..they are hard at play and faster than the middle field and front line actually..Man united back line is ok..

  3. Man united needs to give mourinho more than money. give him some authority to get rid of some english players. For me smalling is poor, very poor, for a cb he isnt capable of doing anything.. only good thing about this defense so far is valencia and baily.. the attacking is good but the ball slows down in the midfield because there are no hungry hard working midfielders., if u watch the games you’ll notice this. fellaini, mata, not good enough. pogba is too good to be in midfield, he doesnt have pace but his crossing ,shooting and talent on the ball is incredible.

    the left wing needs a better winger, mkithayian and valencia do well on the right wing but the left is too poor. need better players there on the wing and left back. rooney can play alongside ibra. very strong attack there. my opinion tho, the backline needs serious replaciing and another good holding midfielder. they shouldve tried to get matuidi, his work rate wouldve made man united alot better, or atleast someone of his calibre.

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