Paul Pogba’s spirit has been transformed by Jose Mourinho’s dismissal as Manchester United manager – and it showed during the 3-1 win over Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day.
The Frenchman, branded as a ‘virus’ by Jose Mourinho, was excluded from the starting XI in all of the 55-year-old’s last three Premier League games as manager.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, however, he dominated during the 5-1 win over Cardiff City and, against Huddersfield, produced a display full of intent and imagination, scoring two superb goals to put the result beyond doubt after half time.
Pogba’s stats from the game demonstrate how he is loving life at Man United ever since Mourinho was sacked.
Paul Pogba's game by numbers vs. Huddersfield:
most touches (114)
most final third passes (40)
most shots (5)
most dribbles completed (4)
most shots on target (4)
most chances created (3)
2/2 tackles won
Complete midfielder. 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/aBOazJAb0y
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 26, 2018
Without the scowling visage of Mourinho looming over his every move, Pogba was able to have fun and smile against Huddersfield, and we did too.
That Pogba was in position to score two curling goals into the bottom corner – one from outside the box, one from just inside – serves as evidence of a corner turned since Solskjaer’s arrival.
Full-backs are pressing higher, opening up more space for the Frenchman. Attacking players now have more freedom to roam. And as a result, there is this weird thing called ‘movement’, and even ‘aggression’, happening with United’s play in the final third.
In turn, Pogba is liberated to play on his own terms. Did you really think he wanted to dwell on the ball inside his own half by choice? The performance – both for Pogba and indeed the whole team – against David Wagner’s side suggests that United, put simply, did not need to be as awful and predictable as they were under the previous regime.
A weight has been lifted, giving Pogba the chance to embrace football as it should be at United.