Would a change in formation help Paul Pogba flourish at Manchester United?
September is too early to judge a new signing under normal circumstances, but when you are the world’s most expensive player, no time is too early to stop the prying eyes of the football world from forming their opinions.
Paul Pogba is the latest name to have this burden to contend with, and after just four games into his second spell at Old Trafford, many have already derided the club’s decision to part with £89 million for the services of the Frenchman.
The main reason behind the negative reaction to Pogba’s early performances is his display in the Manchester derby last weekend. He wasn’t just poor, he was completely anonymous. He did nothing going forward and couldn’t get near the movement of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva when defending. This judgement of his early United career spilled over into an uninspiring cameo as his team fell to defeat to Feyenoord in the Europa League.
Admittedly, Pogba hasn’t looked at his sparkling best at Old Trafford yet, and it may take him a little time to settle down again into a team run by Jose Mourinho, but the France star is being hampered by the system currently preferred by the Portuguese manager.
Mourinho has preferred to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation, in various guises, throughout his managerial career. Naturally, he has tried to implement this system at Old Trafford. It’s worked for him everywhere else, so why not there. Being the imposing physical presence he is, Pogba would be wasted as a number 10 in this formation, but the defensive leg work he is required to do as part of a two man holding midfield also detracts from his strengths to a massive degree.
The main reason Pogba was so successful at Juventus was the plethora of quality midfielders he had around him. When he was an inspiring figure in their run to the Champions League final of 2015, the Frenchman played in a midfield three with the considerable talents of Andrea Pirlo and Aturo Vidal. There could hardly have been a better combination of players that would allow Pogba to flourish, but the system was used perfectly to utilise the unique blend of energy, finesse and muscle in the Old Lady’s midfield.
If United are to get the best out of Pogba, Mourinho might be wise to use this system. Their number 6 is at his best rampaging from deep, but with the freedom to advance to the edge of the box. Adding another midfielder would allow Pogba to do so, providing a sturdy platform for the 23-year-old to launch himself at opponents and link up with the powerful but creative Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Of course, this would mean losing a player up top. Ibrahimovic, despite his age, must play. Four goals in the Premier League already doesn’t begin to tell the full story. His link up play is second to none, and his positional intelligence make him a vital asset to United going forward.
This would leave two places alongside him in an attacking three, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Antony Martial should be the names to fill these gaps. Mkhitaryan excelled on the right of a front three for Dortmund, whilst Martial would provide some much needed pace to the front line.
This means that there is no space for Wayne Rooney in the starting line up. Unthinkable a couple of seasons ago, the England captain no longer has the stamina to play out wide, or the pace and strength to lead the line on his own. He will still do a good job for United in the middle, but if the £89 million spent on Paul Pogba is to prove anywhere near value for money, it is a change that must be made.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Serg Hoholok
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