Although Cristiano Ronaldo stole most of the headlines in Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Newcastle United, it was Paul Pogba’s understated performance that was arguably just as impressive.
The Frenchman provided assists for Manchester United’s third and fourth goals, setting up Bruno Fernandes and then Jesse Lingard after Ronaldo ’s opening brace.
This added to his five already-accumulated assists across United’s opening three Premier League matches, taking him to a standout total of seven for the campaign.
It was anticipated that perhaps Pogba’s influence, certainly from an attacking point of view, may subside following the arrival of Ronaldo. This is because he was likely to be relegated from one of the attacking four positions in order to cater for the Portuguese star.
Sure enough, Pogba started the fixture vs Newcastle deeper inside the midfield double pivot, like he did at Wolves. Yet his performance proved as impactful as in his previous three matches, highlighting that the change in his role won’t lead to a more shackled and conservative version of the Frenchman.
He finished Saturday’s demolition of Newcastle having registered five shot-creating actions, as many as he accumulated playing on the left of United’s attack in their win vs Leeds and one more than he secured in the draw vs Southampton.
The Frenchman also registered 34 touches inside the attacking third, more than he managed in each of those two fixtures in which he played in a more advanced attacking area.
Whilst Pogba managed to sustain his high levels of creative and attacking output, he crucially remained disciplined and aware of his defensive responsibilities without the ball.
No United player made more tackles than his total of four, whilst no player attempted more pressures than his total 18.
Whilst it’s still early days, what we’re seeing from Pogba is an ability to evolve this previously defensive-oriented holding midfield role to something much more hybrid in which he is still able to join in the attacking four when the time is right, but is also aware of his responsibility when needed to defend.
No wonder United fans are over the moon to hear reports that he’s keen to potentially sign a new deal and signing it would be the icing on the cake to a very impressive start to the new campaign.