Pogba exclusive: I missed football so much

Thursday 09 July 2020 07:00

Paul Pogba says his extended period on the sidelines has further enhanced his love for the beautiful game and he’s “really, really happy” to be back, playing his part in Manchester United’s quest for trophies and a top-four place.

The midfielder began the 2019/20 campaign in good form but his campaign was derailed by injury from the end of September. Despite returning for two games during December, an ankle problem ruled him out of action until lockdown. But following the successful resumption of football in mid-June, Pogba has been in fine fettle as the Reds have maintained an impressive unbeaten run and firmly put the pressure on in the race for a Champions League spot.

Paul sat down with us earlier this week to reflect on his return to the side and spoke of the excellent spirit amongst the squad, on and off the pitch.

“Just being back training, touching the ball and doing what I love is amazing; I missed it so much,” he declared. “You realise when you’re out for a long time how much you really enjoy playing football and how much you love it. So obviously I’m really, really happy and so blessed to be back and be fully fit now, and I’m enjoying being back with the team.

“I feel great, I feel much, much better now. I’ve been training well and they [the club] have been looking after me very well. I’ve been doing some extra work and treatment on my ankle and the rest of my body. And my team-mates as well, they’ve helped me to come back and feel confident. It’s like I never left, the guys still trust in me and always believe in me and that’s helped me a lot as well.

“You can tell that the team is improving a lot,” he continued. “We play more as a team than we did before, we enjoy it even more, we defend together, we attack together, and this team is stronger as well. The players who are on the bench or who don’t play every time, when they come on they help the team so the mentality is good and is right. All this together has put us where we are today.”

One of the stand-out features of United’s play during this 16-game unbeaten spell has been the cohesion and creativity amongst the attacking players. As highlighted by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the players, the arrival of Bruno Fernandes has boosted everyone at the club and Pogba says just watching the attacking players in action is a joy.

 “From behind I just enjoy it. I’m enjoying just watching Bruno, Rashford, Martial and Mason, who all played the last game, and seeing them score goals. You just keep applauding, it’s beautiful… they make me enjoy football every time!” he beamed.

“As well though there is the defensive work that people don’t talk about - they do it. The pressing - they do it… that’s what you maybe don’t see that much. Football fans who know football see that and that’s the difference that we have and it’s great to see them at their best. I think it’s about the mentality – the attacking and defending that they do every time – that helps us, it helps the midfielders and the defenders and obviously the talent speaks for itself - the goals and the action and the football, everything.”

Neither Pogba or January signing Fernandes were on the pitch when United hosted tonight's opponents Aston Villa back in December, and the West Midlands club emerged from Old Trafford with a precious point that could yet help them avoid relegation.

"I was in the stadium watching the game and I remember Victor [Lindelof] scoring for us," said Paul.

"All the games are difficult here in England and good players can make the difference. We saw that in the last game against Villa, with Jack Grealish, a beautiful goal.

“We know what we have to do there [at Villa Park]. We need points so honestly we have to think about ourselves. We need to get the win and carry on with what we’ve been doing in the last few weeks.”

Presenting… our top-scoring trio’s season so far! Video

Presenting… our top-scoring trio’s season so far!

Marcus Rashford x Anthony Martial x Mason Greenwood = 55 goals in 2019/20. You can count them, if you want…

It couldn’t be much tighter in the table amongst those teams battling for a top-four place, with every game having something riding on it at the moment. But Pogba insists that’s exactly the kind of pressure the players relish.

“To become a top, top team we just need to forget about the last game. We do it, we play well, we do great but then we forget about it and we think about the next one,” he explained. “Take last week, we don’t think about what happened, we are focused on going again. We have to always keep having the goal to improve ourselves and never get satisfied with what we did.

“For example, Martial scored three goals, his first hat-trick, then he goes again, you have to carry on… he wants to take another ball home, you know! [Smiles] You have to have this mentality, score a goal and do it again and again… Bruno, Rashy, Mason… hey if you got two goals, great, but go for three, why not. You have to keep this mentality, keep a clean sheet too… we want to keep working on this and we have the mentality to do it.

“That’s also the mentality of this club, it’s always been like that. We’re never satisfied with one trophy or one game we win or two games or 10 games, you want more, you always want more. That’s what makes Manchester United the biggest club, for me, in England.”

Read more from Paul Pogba in an exclusive interview for Monday’s edition of United Review. Order your copy now.