Pogba’s stunning return means Man Utd are big favourites for Europa League glory
The French World Cup winner made a stunning return from injury, springing from the bench to net a vital away goal in San Siro
Match statistics: AC Milan 0-1 Manchester United
Any doubts that Manchester United were not missing Paul Pogba were firmly allayed within three minutes of his introduction at San Siro.
Pogba is the reason Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are still on track for Europa League glory after an exquisite finish, shortly after he was summoned from the bench at the break, in this vital last-16 second-leg tie against AC Milan.
Pogba had missed the previous 10 games with a thigh injury and ever since he limped off, with United leading against Everton at Old Trafford, they have struggled.
Had they won that game against the Toffees, they would have gone level on points with Manchester City in the Premier League. But they didn’t and now they find themselves 14 points behind.
Creatively, that spark has been lacking without him and the goals have dropped off; their average goals per game dropped to 0.7 in the last six games compared to 2.2 in the 39 games before. Shots per game were down as were big chances created.
Pogba makes the team tick; the star man who can make an impact in a flash, and he was in fine form before his injury saw him spend six weeks on the sidelines.
United’s midfield had been struggling against Milan in the first half here – stagnant, lacking in imagination and with little creative spark.
Fred and Scott McTominay do not have the range of passing that Pogba does and, between them, cannot influence United’s attacking game from deep.
It was a first-half display that was screaming out for the return of the France international.
Poor decision-making in the final third had cost United good chances early on. Bruno Fernandes was having an off-day and that creative hub was struggling to get going.
Paul Pogba Manchester United GFX
“We weren’t good at all,” Luke Shaw admitted to BT Sport after. “First half, we were awful. The first 10 to 15 minutes we started well and kept control of the ball but then like a switch we turned off.
“We were very sloppy, kept giving away balls, bringing pressure on ourselves and I think we were lucky.
“Second half [it was] a bit better. It always helps when you’ve got a world-class player like Paul to come on and make a difference, he did that and it’s brilliant to have him back.”
For the second week running, Solskjaer’s hand was forced at the break with Marcus Rashford’s injury flaring up and it was left to Pogba to remind everyone just how important he is to this side.
A goal within three minutes was one certain way of enforcing that importance. He delivered a clever feint to fool Gianluigi Donnarumma before hitting an excellent finish from a tight angle at the near post into the roof of the net…
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