Phil Neville has pointed out how Manchester United’s attacking zeal only manifests itself when Paul Pogba is on the pitch.
Jose Mourinho’s men failed to impress in games against the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Huddersfield Down during the Frenchman’s layoff and fell behind Manchester City in the Premier League as a result.
They were then outclassed by Pep Guardiola’s side when Pogba was suspended and the efficiency of their attacking play dwindled against AFC Bournemouth and West Bromwich Albion.
And Neville, writing in his column for Sky Sports, noted that Man United were like a different team without him.
“When I see Manchester United without Paul Pogba I see a team which goes from one who can swat away teams by three or four goals to one that’s workmanlike,” he said.
“Pogba is a leader in what he does. He makes United more enjoyable to watch and he frees up the attacking players with his understanding with Romelu Lukaku, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.
“As a forward he gives you that spark and arrogance. When he doesn’t play it becomes more predictable and his unpredictability when United play is really important.”
It is no secret that, without Pogba, United lose that capacity to roll teams over by three or four goals. The swagger so integral to any top side appears to vanish, replaced by a semblance of toil and drudgery.
And that notion, above anything, is what separates United from the cream of the crop at this moment in time. Any other top side would be able to carry on as usual – relatively speaking – without their best player, but United simply can’t, and it appears to have cost them the title this season.