Ryan Giggs believes that Paul Pogba will reach new heights at Manchester United this season, pointing towards Nemanja Matic’s arrival as an important factor in seeing the Frenchman contribute more in front of goal.
The Frenchman arrived last summer for a then world record £89m but – forced to help out defensively as well as offensively – struggled to offer the expected attacking impetus to Jose Mourinho’s side early on.
He ended up with nine goals at the end of the season, including one in the Europa League final, but supporters will expect the 24-year-old to deliver more going forward this season.
And Giggs, reflecting on Matic’s introduction, believes that the Serbian will help Pogba contribute to attacking movements on a more regular basis over the coming months.
“I expect Pogba will improve a lot this season. He’s been back a year now and the introduction of Matic is a good buy because it frees him up,” he said.
“That’s what you want to see from Pogba, getting on the end of crosses and scoring goals. I think he’s capable of dropping deep or playing in an old-fashioned midfield two but he can get further forward and I expect him to be more effective this year.
“He managed nine last year and hit the crossbar and post plenty of times as well, so he can bring the goals that might turn draws into wins and have a real effect on the team.”
There was a moment against Real Madrid in the Super Cup where Pogba was indeed able to get forward directly because of Matic’s sturdy presence.
The 29-year-old spun brilliantly and found Ander Herrera, who nudged the ball forward and Pogba latched on to it, surging forward with Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan on either side, with only Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane back. Three versus two, the commentator shouts inevitably.
In the end, Pogba made the wrong decision, firing the ball wastefully over the bar. Perhaps that amount of space up the pitch was alien to him. But it was nevertheless an encouraging sign. If United work the ball quickly, with Matic as the starting point, then the Frenchman will be able to lead attacks moving forward next season.