Manchester United legend Gary Neville was left surprised by Paul Pogba during his first start in nine months on Wednesday. Pogba was named in the United starting XI for the first time since September 2019 for the visit of Sheffield United to Old Trafford. It was the first time the Frenchman had started a match alongside January signing Bruno Fernandes.
Ahead of kick-off, Neville told Sky Sports he expected Nemanja Matic to play in a deep-lying midfield role, with Fernandes and Pogba ahead of the former Chelsea man.
However, during the first half it became clear Pogba was playing deeper than Neville thought he would, which surprised the former right-back who was commentating on the game.
“I think he’s better Paul Pogba when he moves forward and is a little bit more free,” Neville said.
“He’s just alongside Matic in that role, a little bit deeper.
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“He looked better the other night when he had that roaming role and was able to go right, left, move around the pitch, a little bit like Bruno’s doing now.
“I wondered whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would just sit Matic and put the two in front so they can both be higher up the pitch, but Pogba’s deeper.
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“You just think of his goals and assists record, it’s very good Paul Pogba.
“So you want him to run and to receive it as high up the pitch as possible, in and around that penalty area where he can go past people.
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“He’s just supporting from behind again.”
Before the match, Neville said United would no longer have excuses over a lack of creativity with both Pogba and Fernandes available.
“I think with the system Manchester United have with obviously [Nemanja] Matic sitting and the two in front, there’s an element of freedom,” Neville said.
“I think both those players have an element of freedom in the game, they want to express themselves.
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“You can’t really discipline them to the point where you’re saying ‘work in this channel’.
“We know that [Kevin] De Bruyne and [David] Silva at City work in those very strict channels.
“Pogba we saw the goal he created the other night as a right winger, Bruno Fernandes pops up all over the pitch.
“So it’s a slightly different application of the system than Manchester City would use or Liverpool would use.
“But I do believe it’s one that could accommodate both of them and Manchester United should be more creative.
“They have had problems that have dropped deep over the last year or so but with those two in midfield now I don’t think there will be many excuses, or there shouldn’t be any excuses for the lack of creativity.”
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