Gary Neville has discussed just how influential the suspended Paul Pogba is for Manchester United in getting the ball from back to front quickly.
The Frenchman has made a superb start to the 2017/18 campaign, however with him suspended for the crucial Manchester derby following a straight red card after a dangerous tackle on Hector Bellerin his presence in the middle will be hugely missed this Sunday.
Against Arsenal at the weekend, the 24-year-old was crucial in everything that was good about United’s transition from defence to attack, evidenced by his two assists against the Gunners.
With him now out of next weekend’s top of the table clash, Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville has been pondering how United will cope without their record signing.
Commenting on the Old Trafford club’s most recent clash, this is what the former United defender had to say:
“It was a cloud over a very good day for United because he is such an important player in the connection between the front and the back,” he told Sky Sports.
“The composure he shows travelling with the ball, you see West Ham when they were deep with 20 minutes to go, they didn’t have anybody that could travel with the ball, past (Kevin) De Bruyne and (David) Silva.
“You think about Pogba, he would beat De Bruyne and Silva with the ball at his feet and break that line. Once you break that line you’re onto the weakness, you’re onto those two centre-backs with Lukaku and Martial.
“City is a big game to not have Pogba. The person who can break the line is gone, but Jose Mourinho will be looking at how he can do it differently.”
Given the form City are in, defending that line as much as breaking past it will be paramount to United coming away with a result, however with Pogba out a key facet of United’s physicality in the middle of the pitch evaporates.
What the France international has in skill he matches in robustness, as seen when he went past Laurent Koscielny as if he wasn’t there on Saturday to set up Jesse Lingard’s second, and United’s third, goal.
The big question ahead of the game, however, will be: can Mourinho’s Pogba-less midfield cope with the pace and creativity of a City side which could feature any combination of Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and David Silva?
On paper the answer is no, however this is no ordinary game given what’s at stake for the Manchester giants.
A win for United pegs City back to just five points while victory for the Citizens could well set them on their way to the title in 2018 as they would have a substantial eleven-point lead heading into the festive period.