Boring, boring Man Utd! Dire draws hint at what’s to come when Pogba leaves

Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith Updated: 19 May 2021 16:09 CEST 4 min read
Boring, boring Man Utd! Dire draws hint at what’s to come when Pogba leaves

Paul Pogba and a transfer away from Manchester United; a story that’s become synonymous with every transfer window.

With Pogba’s contract expiring in June 2022, and it looking unlikely he’ll put pen to paper on a new deal, Man Utd may be forced to sell the superstar this summer to avoid losing him on a free the year after.

They will likely make a decent amount off a potential sale, but how much would they miss Pogba’s technical proficiency and his ability to do the unexpected?

Their recent run of three consecutive 0-0 draws would suggest a lot.

Pogba has missed the past seven games, last playing in the dramatic 3-3 Premier League draw with Everton on 6 February. In the subsequent games, Man Utd have scored nine goals – and none in their last three.

In the recent 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side took 11 shots to Palace’s eight. They had only one on target to their opponents’ two, despite having 63% of the ball.

Paul Pogba has been important to Man Utd as an attacking force this season

Paul Pogba has been important to Man Utd as an attacking force this season

Without Pogba in the side, the midfield was passive and slow, akin to the Louis van Gaal days, and a double pivot of Nemanja Matic and Fred was simply not creative enough against the deep block that Palace operated with.

Solskjaer has favoured a partnership of Scott McTominay and Fred this season, but bear in mind Pogba has suffered injury problems. Whilst this provides defensive solidity, it certainly does not provide inspiration.

In fact, Man Utd are yet to beat a single team from the ‘Big Six’ this campaign, despite sitting second in the Premier League. Indeed, they have drawn 0-0 against Chelsea twice, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool. And of course there was the humiliating 6-1 loss to Tottenham earlier this season.

In all five of those scoreless draws, Solskjaer has started with a double pivot of McTominay and Fred, highlighting how he values solidity over flair. Although Pogba did start against Arsenal, it was as a left-sided attacker rather than in his preferred central midfield role.

Taking a look at the last time Pogba played for Man Utd, the 3-3 draw with Everton, the impact he has on the team is evident.

Paul Pogba Snapshot

2020/21 Premier LeaguePAUL POGBA
Minutes1348
Goals3
Tackles per 901.6
Interceptions per 901.3
Aerial Wins per 902.4
Dribbles per 901.7
Shots per 901.3

Pogba was replaced by Fred after 40 minutes due to injury, but before the Frenchman went off, Man Utd were 2-0 up and were yet to allow Everton a single shot on target.

By the time the full-time whistle came around, they had allowed three shots on target and conceded three goals. That happened with a pivot of – you guessed it – McTominay and Fred on the pitch. This suggests that Pogba could provide defensive cover as well as more ingenuity in the final third.

Pogba completes fewer tackles and interceptions per 90 than Fred, but wins more aerial battles and is far more effective in the final third.

If they lose Pogba this summer, then Man Utd fans could expect to see less and less attacking creativity, leaving Solskjaer’s increasingly reliant on Bruno Fernandes for their creativity.