Paul Pogba of old is back for Manchester United in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s new era
- Midfielder scores twice in 3-1 win at home against Huddersfield
- Caretaker manager says Pogba is ‘United through and through’
After rifling in Manchester United’s third goal to all but seal victory against Huddersfield, Paul Pogba did not run off in celebration. He stood still, arms outstretched, and nodded his head as he soaked up the Old Trafford atmosphere.
“That’s the Paul I know, that’s the Paul I have known since he was in the reserves and the youth team,” said caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who gave the French midfielder his United reserves debut aged 16 in 2009.
Pogba now has seven goals for the season, but his two clinical strikes in the 3-1 win on Boxing Day were his first from open play.
His display was quite a contrast to the player who had started just two of Jose Mourinho’s last six games, after falling out with the manager before the Portuguese was sacked last week.
Now Pogba is leading the charge for Solskjaer’s team, showing the fans the form that saw United spend £89.3 million (US$112.6 million) to bring him back to the club from Juventus.
“He’s always been a happy boy, he’s always had a big smile on his face and when you score a goal or two you’re happy,” Solskjaer said.
“And when you play football for Man United you should be happy, it’s a responsibility, but it’s an honour and a privilege.
“And Paul loves playing for this club, he’s a Man United boy through and through, he’s a kid that knows what it means to play for Man United.
Pogba was the last player down the tunnel at full-time, having hung around to clap the fans and hand his shirt to a supporter.
After getting two assists in the 5-1 win at Cardiff, Pogba was voted man of the match by United’s fans – who seem to be quickly forgiving him for his poor form and attitude during the last 18 months of acrimony under Mourinho.
“I’m spending time with the players, of course, and trying to get as much time with each individual as possible,” Solskjaer said.
“And Paul is one that really enjoyed [today], last time he creates two or three goals, this time he score two himself. I think he’ll enjoy this tonight.”
It’s only been two matches but United look a different team under their former legendary striker, with their top-four hopes suddenly not so unrealistic.
United are eight points off fourth-placed Chelsea and six points behind fifth-placed Arsenal, with Bournemouth at home next up before a trip to struggling Newcastle on December 30.
“No, you don’t in one week [change] anything,” Solskjaer said. “But, the mindset. I want my team to play in a certain way and you give them little pointers here and there and it’s a work in progress, that’s what it is.
“It’s going to take time to go from one manager and details he wanted, and I’ve done a little bit of a tweak, so it will improve as time goes on and I was just saying to the staff as well towards the end where you go 2-0 up or 3-0 up. Next week we’ll have [Alexis] Sanchez, [Anthony] Martial back, you’ve got [Romelu] Lukaku to put on and really finish them on then.”
United finished the game with a front four of Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and 18-year-old Angel Gomes, who came on as a substitute for Juan Mata at 3-0.
Significantly, all four players are products of United’s academy, a club tradition Solskjaer knows all about and has promised to resurrect after Mourinho’s apparent unwillingness to trust youth.
“For me to learn from a manager like Solskjaer is great for me and the other younger lads because growing up we were watching him. It’s a great feeling,” Gomes told MUTV.
“He told me enjoy myself get on the pitch. He said to come inside and get on the ball and get as many touches as you can and enjoy the atmosphere and I tried to do that coming on and it was a great experience.
“I think United is about bringing youth through and I think with the new manager and how things are going it’s there for the taking really.”