Manchester United take on West Ham United in the Premier League, in hopes of making a run of good form following their 4-0 win in the Europa League against Feyenoord. With United five points behind fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur before the start of the game, they seriously needed the three points to keep up with competitors for European places. Despite the strong performance in midweek, United made six changes to the starting lineup, most notably the replacement of Thursday’s star performers Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Wayne Rooney for Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford.
United started the game in the worst way possible, falling behind after just 90 seconds through a Diafra Sakho header. Zlatan Ibrahimovic equalised for United by heading in a beautiful raised through ball from Paul Pogba. United also had golden opportunities to go ahead in the second half from Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford, but both were denied by Angelo Ogbonna and Darren Randolph respectively. The rest of the game, and just the game, in general, is what you might expect if you’ve been paying attention to United games. United dominated possession, always on top of things, yet were not capable of capitalising on that dominance.
As such, a lot of the individual performances were pretty similar. Defenders were all solid overall. They didn’t have too much to do, as usual, but they were still dependable overall, with Antonio Valencia once again being the pick of the bunch from that area, picking up some of the attackers’ slack on top of defending, and centre back pairing Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones, doing nothing to harm their chances of being team sheet fixtures.
And while the attackers struggled to both create and convert chances, they would’ve done so much worse without Pogba behind them. Despite the lacklustre display of his teammates around him, Pogba showed once again why he is easily one of the best midfielders in the league, if not the best.
Pogba proved that he is as close to a complete midfielder as you could find. He did his fair share defensively and wasn’t afraid to battle physically with opposition players in both attack and defence. His assist to Ibrahimovic was just one of the quality passes he played in the game, and he put a shift in on either side of the pitch.
But what needs to be highlighted most is how much pressure he does all that under. West Ham players swarming him when he had the ball wasn’t an uncommon sight, but his terrific close control and skill got him out of those situations unlike most midfielders could, and that was most evident when he could’ve won a free kick in the first half had he not avoided the challenge, earning him a booking for simulation.
All in all, Pogba was the best in an overall poor bunch. But that shouldn’t take away from the quality of his performance. United were disappointing, but even if they had won, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he was still Man of the Match then, let alone now.