Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have ultimately stole the show with both goals in Manchester United’s 2-0 victory over Southampton, but Paul Pogba showed enough on debut that he has the capability of justifying his world record transfer fee.
Prior to playing his first game for the Red Devils, many believed Pogba’s biggest strength would be his ability to run beyond forward pairing Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney, who both look to drop short and link-up play.
No player at Old Trafford bettered the Frenchman’s tally of four goal attempts, with three of these coming from inside the Saints penalty box.
Pogba also led the way in numerous defensive statistics, making 13 ball recoveries (only one other player reached double figures) and five interceptions.
However, he may need to be more aware in a positional sense if he is to remain in one of the two deepest central positions, as Southampton enjoyed the most attacking joy down their right side.
Both Pogba and Anthony Martial were not at their most diligent defensively, which put added pressure on Daley Blind and Luke Shaw. This may have different consequences against other opposition.
Where Pogba was at his most effective was through his dribbling from deep positions. He attempted 12 and was successful with eight. Antonio Valencia with three was the only other player to complete more than one.
With high pressing becoming more common in the current Premier League, having a player who can resist and break through this in deep positions to launch counter attacks is hugely effective.
Tottenham’s Mousa Dembele is a rare example of this type of midfielder in the English top flight, who can slalom through a press, is physical and looks to move the ball forwards.
Pogba’s dribbles can relieve heavy pressure and he was also Jose Mourinho’s most frequent passer against Southampton, completing 59. Next best was his central midfield partner Marouane Fellaini with 40.
Against the likes of Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City in particular, Pogba’s skillset will be indispensable and winning these matches will edge the Red Devils a couple of steps closer to finishing top.
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