This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Reports in recent weeks have suggested that Paul Pogba could be on his way out of Manchester United this summer and that former side Juventus and perennial suitors Real Madrid are very much interested in his signature.
But all may not be lost. There have been some glimpses of world-class ability and if this truly is the summer of rebuild at Old Trafford, then it may be worth tearing up the age-old United system and placing Pogba at the heart of the new era.
One of the big talking points surrounding Pogba has been where his best position is. At Juventus, he thrived on the left-hand side of a midfield three, where he was allowed to maraud forward and given the licence to get into the opposition’s penalty area.
Seeing him at United having to hold down the reins and exercise caution has been confusing at best, and painful at worst. Doing the proverbial ‘dirty’ side of the game isn’t Pogba’s calling card. It never has been and it likely never will be. His best work, even in a United shirt, has come when he has lurked just outside the penalty area or made some late, powerful runs into the six-yard box, like the ones that allowed him to bag twice in that dramatic turnaround at the Etihad in April 2018.
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If Solskjaer chooses to employ a formation like 4-2-3-1, having Pogba as the side’s number ten could be game-changing. Despite the naysayers, the 26-year-old scored 16 times and provided a further 11 assists last season. Indeed, his underlying numbers make for even more impressive reading with 1.5 key passes and 1.6 dribbles per game.
Letting him roam in the playmaker position further forward could give him the kind of freedom he might relish in. Indeed, former Red Devils midfielder Darren Fletcher revealed that in a coaching stint he had with the reserves, he let the midfielder express himself.
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He said: “We gave him a free role. We said to him, go and play, get on the ball and make things happen. We let him be a free spirit and he was a match-winner.”
Playing Pogba in that influential number ten role could well be the ultimate renaissance of his United career and could be the best vindication for his mammoth £290k-a-week wage.