Manchester United look for a second win on the bounce with their visit to Crystal Palace, following their 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. The weekend win would have gone a long way to renewing confidence in the squad, and a win against Palace is needed to build momentum. On form pair, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Antonio Valencia were both unavailable for selection, and United had to make do without their key performers.
The first half started out much like many other United games, with United on top but not creating good enough chances. But as the half wore on, Palace began to push back, and United started threatening to score, forcing good saves from Wayne Hennessey. His first save came from a Wayne Rooney volley after a clever chipped through pass from Paul Pogba, and the second from Pogba himself. Pogba ended up being the one who broke the deadlock with the last kick of the half, pouncing on a Zlatan Ibrahimovic lay-off following a free kick.
United began to drop back in the second half, no longer having to chase the lead, and, as they do, paid the price when James McArthur equalised for Palace. And finally, having been denied a penalty and then a goal by the officials, United retook the lead, after Pogba slots Ibrahimovic through to finish well past Hennessey.
Notice how one name kept coming up in that match summary. Pogba was incredibly influential as the creative base of United’s attack. He was the driving force behind United’s play, at times seemingly forcing the chances himself through a tight Palace defence. United’s attackers were tidy in the link-up but were largely unable to make the penetrative passes necessary. This was where Pogba came in.
Not only was he the main provider of chances, or at least the one who instigated attacks, he also showed off his remarkable technique and skill. And not just to show off, too. His close control and skill was the reason why he could bust through Palace’s midfield and defence, getting himself out of difficult situation.
In the second half, United’s change in attitude meant Pogba also had to adjust, playing deeper with less forward roaming. But even with this, he still managed to influence the attack, by playing accurate long balls from deep to Ibrahimovic, who did his part with the build up that follows. Pogba’s assist for United’s winner summed up his incredible skill set: the skill to make the turn, the strength to hold off his opponent, and the vision to pick out the pass.
Normally, with a performance like his, Ibrahimovic would at least by one of the main contenders for man of the match. But I’m afraid it’d be very difficult to provide any competition for Pogba on this one.