Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has released the manacles which held back Paul Pogba under Jose Mourinho’s tutelage, but that tactical switch has had a negative impact on Jesse Lingard.
Much was made of the fractured relationship between Mourinho and Pogba. The dynamic between two superstar footballing figures provided a soap opera behind the scenes which served as an unwanted distraction until Mourinho walked out the exit door.
The Portuguese manager’s departure provided cathartic relief for both Pogba and the supporters who were forced to watch a pivotal relationship unravel in front of the public eye.
One of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s priorities when he took the job on an interim basis would almost certainly have revolved around Pogba’s glaring lack of form.
But the new manager immediately transformed United’s record-signing. A return of nine goals, seven assists and five man of the match awards provide tangible proof to vindicate the general feeling that Solskjaer has enabled him to find another gear.
However, as is so often the case, one player’s improvement is often intrinsically linked with the decline of another. Take Sadio Mane and Mo Salah at Liverpool this season and Bernardo Silva and Kevin de Bruyne at Manchester City.
Is a similar pattern unfolding at Old Trafford? Well, its fair to say that Lingard’s influence has diminished in tandem with Pogba’s exponential improvement.
The 26-year-old was a revelation last season, scoring 13 goals and providing 7 assists in all-competitions, while showcasing a supreme level of confidence and ability in United’s attacking midfield.
Even Mourinho’s most vehement critic would have been forced to accept that he did a tremendous job in bringing the best out of a player who had been written off by the masses.
Lingard, who had once looked so timid, ineffective and out of his depth at the top level suddenly became the focal point of United’s attack. Solskjaer, though, has shifted the focus towards Pogba in the heart of midfield.
United’s Tuesday night defeat at Molineux provided a prime example of how Lingard is struggling to adapt to the new tactical system. While Pogba made five key passes and completed two dribbles, the England international made just one key pass and failed to complete a single dribble, per Whoscored.
Lingard was neat and tidy, boasting a passing accuracy of 87.5% compared to Pogba’s 70.2%, but in the position he plays the fans would surely rather see him lose the ball when taking risks to unlock the opponent – as he did under Mourinho – rather than playing percentage passes.
With United leading by one goal to nil in the first-half, Lingard also missed a glaring opportunity to double their advantage, a moment which pointed towards a distinct lack of confidence under the new manager.
Solskjaer has made great strides forward in his endeavour to maximise Pogba’s world class ability – now he must find a way to stop that from compromising Lingard’s form.