Why Solskjaer must move Paul Pogba forward for Man United
Photo by Michael Regan via Getty Images

Why Solskjaer must move Paul Pogba forward for Man United

Pogba has been playing in a more defensive position this season but United need the midfielder in the final third.

nathan
Nathan Egerton

Manchester United have endured a difficult start to the league season and Paul Pogba has once again been singled out for criticism.

After their 4-0 win over Chelsea, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are without a victory in their last three games and things need to change.

United have lacked creativity in the final third as they struggle to break teams down and create goal-scoring opportunities. 

However, one solution would be to change their formation and move Pogba further up the pitch.

The Pogba problem

Pogba has divided opinion ever since his £86 million move to United in 2016.

There is little doubt that the Frenchman is one of the most talented players in the world, but he has mainly failed to justify the hefty price tag.

While Pogba is capable of producing moments of brilliance, he's struggled for consistency at Old Trafford and has sometimes been anonymous throughout games.

Jose Mourinho and Solskjaer have both tried to fit the World Cup winner into their team, but they've both had indifferent results. 

Pogba looked set to join Real Madrid this summer, but he remained at United and it's now up to the manager to finally get the best out of the midfielder.

Defensive responsibilities

Since the start of the season, Solskjaer has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation with Pogba and Scott McTominay in midfield.

This system pushes Pogba back into his own half, and he has to sit in front of the defence. 

However, he has never been a well-disciplined midfielder and defending is one of his weakest attributes. 

Fans have often been critical of Pogba's body language, lack of effort and his failure to trackback.

Last season the midfielder made 0.54 interceptions and 1.14 tackles per game, so he shouldn't be playing in this key position.  

The 26-year-old also loves flicks and tricks, and he is a risk-taker but if you took that out of his game he wouldn't be the same player. 

However, when playing in a midfield two this often leads to him losing possession in dangerous areas, and he gave the ball away 602 times last season.

Another issue in Pogba's game is that he can often dawdle on the ball which allows players to easily dispossess him. 

During United's recent game against Crystal Palace, he carelessly lost the ball in his own half and the visitors were able to counterattack and score the winner. 

Therefore, playing Pogba in a midfield pivot will always leave the defence vulnerable due to his occasional lapses in concentration, so United should move him into the opponents half. 

Attacking freedom 

As well as helping the defence, a return to the 4-3-3 formation will also allow Pogba to play to his strengths and focus on the more natural part of his game.

After being benched by Mourinho in December, Pogba was rejuvenated under Solskjaer because the manager switched to a three man midfield. 

The Frenchman scored 10 goals and got six assists in the league under Solskjaer in the second half of last season, and he was named in the PFA Team of the year. 

Therefore, he is clearly at his best when he has the freedom to express himself higher up the pitch. 

At Juventus, Pogba played in a more advanced role where he was able to make those powerful surging runs into the box, create chances and score goals. 

So far this season, the 26-year-old has been shackled by his defensive duties, and he has been unable to fully commit to the attack. 

While Pogba is capable of playing deep in a 4-2-3-1 formation, as he's shown with France, it limits him and wastes his attacking talents.

At international level Pogba is surrounded by excellent players like Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, so he doesn't need to get forward for France.

However, at club level, he is United's best outfield player and they rely on him to create something out of nothing. 

In the Premier League last season, the midfielder topped the charts for United’s goals, assists, shots on target and chances created so there's a big burden on him.

Therefore, as one of the few United players who can produce an incisive and defence-splitting pass, Pogba has to be playing in the final third.

Before returning to the club in December, Solskjaer said he would build his team around Pogba if he was United's manager. 

The Norwegian now needs to follow his own advice and play a 4-3-3 formation for the rest of the season.

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