Lingard: This is the Pogba I used to know
Jesse Lingard has credited Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with rekindling Paul Pogba's attacking qualities and bringing back the player he recognises from their formative years together at Manchester United.
Lingard was a team-mate of Pogba’s in the Reds' FA Youth Cup-winning side of 2011 and they were reunited in 2016 when the Frenchman rejoined the club after four inspirational seasons in Italy with Juventus.
After scoring in and winning the World Cup final with France in Russia last summer, Pogba netted only twice from open play in the first few months of this season - away to Young Boys and at home to Everton. But during Solskjaer’s three-match reign so far, the creative no.6 has grabbed four goals with back-to-back braces against Huddersfield Town and Bournemouth.
It has been Pogba's most productive period for goals since his Old Trafford return and Lingard says, “Paul’s enjoying his football.
“He’s playing in the role he likes to play in, just inside off the left. He has the freedom to make things happen. He has always got forward in that position and scored goals.
“Ole has helped him 100 per cent. He has given him the confidence and licence to be free and play his game and do what we know he can do.
“I can definitely, definitely see the Paul I used to know. I have seen him playing through the ranks and he is back to that player, the player we know.”
Solskjaer’s influence is being felt everywhere in the United dressing room with Lingard suggesting the squad as a whole is benefiting from the Norwegian’s influence.
“Ole is great," said Jesse, when speaking to reporters after the Bournemouth game.
"He is great at one-on-one [conversations] with players. He has great man-management. He will always speak to you and tell you what to do.
“When I am on the right wing he likes me to come inside and make things happen. He gives me licence and freedom to do that.
“Ole knew me from [when he coached] the Reserves and knows what kind of a player I am. When I was a young player he was always there on hand to give advice and help the youngsters out. He helped me out as I was coming through and I learned a lot from him.
“He’s very special to this club and for this club. He knows where Man United has to be and that is at the very top and putting in performances like we did [against Bournemouth].
"We are enjoying playing football and winning games three, four or five-one. Obviously we would like a clean sheet. But we will work on that and try to improve on it.”
United’s slow start to matches this season was pinpointed as a reason for the Reds' struggle to get into the top four of the Premier League. But Solskjaer has managed to get his side racing from the blocks.
“Ole has told us to start quickly, press teams and make sure we are on the front foot and make sure that the first fifteen or twenty minutes decide the game,” revealed Lingard.
“We want to play with a lot of energy and attacking football and after scoring one goal, we always want to score more. Early goals are also important because then the confidence flows and we have the mentality as a team to go on and beat teams four or five-nil.”
The Reds now need to keep the momentum going at St James’ Park against Newcastle United on Wednesday night.
“If we go into it like we have done the last three matches, we will win the game,” predicts Jesse.
“We’ve had the right mentality, of killing teams and pegging them back and not giving them a sniff. That mentality is very important for the [rest of the] season ahead.”
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