Manchester United were promising in the early stages against Manchester City, even if later on in the game they severely fell away and were well beaten 4-1.
Ralf Rangnick’s game plan seemed to be to soak up pressure and then use the creative ability of both Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba to carve through City’s midfield and then set up effective counters.
While Fernandes’ quick passing was important to these moves, it seemed like he was an instrument in the orchestra while Pogba was the conductor. The French midfielder was fantastic and at the center of every positive move that United put together.
His influence was key in Jadon Sancho’s goal. Pogba’s initial interplay with Anthony Elanga was crucial to beating City’s press and allowing United to break. His pass from him to the young England winger was excellently weighted.
Sancho was able to control it easily cut inside and coolly curl it into the far corner. There were a few other moves that United put together which also looked promising but they came to nothing before City’s quality showed.
It was clear that Pogba was United’s best player, so it was baffling when Rangnick took him off in the second half. United had not started well after the break. City had shut down a number of passing angles and closed down the gaps that the Reds had exploited.
But by removing Pogba from the game, it removed a clear avenue for United to get the ball up the field and put a lot of creative weight on the shoulders of Fernandes.
City exploited this and closed down Fernandes as quickly as possible, meaning that either the Portugal midfielder had to surrender possession with a poor pass or lose it and face the opposition bearing down on him in their own half.
But this is the future of United beyond the summer. It seems at this moment in time that Pogba is ready to leave and if United don’t secure Champions League football that may confirm the decision.
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United need quality in their midfield if they are to go toe to toe with the elite and Pogba on his day is probably the best they have.
When he leaves steps must be taken to suitably replace him or the club will fall another few steps behind the rest of the Premier League’s top clubs.
Who do you think Manchester United should chase to replace Paul Pogba in the summer? Follow our United On My Mind writer Casey Evans on Twitter and get involved in the discussion in the comments section below.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.