The cameraman with his handheld equipment stalked Paul Pogba at the final whistle of a scintillating Manchester derby win for United. The producers in the TV gantry wanted shots of the Man of the Match. Everybody's eyes were on the man of the moment.
He mouthed something to the jubilant support and while I’m no lip reader, the message was clear:
“I’m one of you.”The real statement from the 25-year-old, however, had come in those breathtaking 45 minutes when his prominent, inspirational actions helped to mastermind the overturning of City’s 2-0 interval lead and put the brake on those title celebrations.
Goals: City 2 United 3Video
You’d think you wouldn’t be able to miss Pogba with his striking hair colour, his tall frame and loping gait that eats up the ground, but City dangerously managed not to see him as he incisively made a beeline for the gaps in their rearguard. He was a typical ‘ghosting’ midfielder. All the opposition know you are on the pitch but somehow they can’t pick you out when you start that probing surge into the penalty box. Bryan Robson was superb at it. So was Paul Scholes. Opponents of those two Old Trafford legends knew all about the attributes that would ultimately hurt them but so often were left wondering how they didn’t spot that late dash into the danger zone. How did they manage to escape being shut down?
Pogba has that quality too. He was that man on Saturday and Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of the Blues' defence just never saw it coming. Twice Pogba infiltrated their ranks with killer bursts and clinical finishing. His two goals in the space of 97 seconds turned the derby on its head and proved beyond all argument that the France international can be the dominant and match-winning figure his CV has always suggested. He’d taken some stick from City fans after the verbal build-up to the 176th local showdown that had unwittingly shoved him centre stage. His response was perfect.
Pogba: That win was for the fansVideo
The haunting echoes of Wembley 2011 and Guardiola’s magnificent Barcelona side in the Champions League final couldn’t have been far from Sir Alex’s thoughts. For Pogba and co to be able to banish those memories and deliciously wreck City’s early title-clinching celebrations was the mark of something special.
It can be the performance from Pogba that kickstarts his influence. There can be no going back from an inspirational display like this and his United team-mate Ander Herrera is in agreement.
“Paul Pogba can be the best in the world. I have already told him that he can be the best in the world,”said Herrera after the 3-2 derby win.
“Today (Saturday) can be the first step to achieving it because he was fantastic. He needed one day like today.
“Apart from the goals, I think he played fantastic, even in the first half. The personality he has is just amazing. He always wants the ball, he never hides. That is fantastic.”
It was indeed an unforgettable 45 minutes in East Manchester for the Frenchman. Onwards and upwards.
The opinions expressed in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United.