United Briefing: There's more to come from Pogba
Louis Saha has joined the praise of Paul Pogba for his recent performances, but believes his compatriot will only get better as the campaign progresses.
Our no.6 has arguably been United’s stand-out performer in the new year, with a disciplined showing at Anfield following hot on the heels of his important strike at Burnley last week.
Pogba started wide on the right on Merseyside, and has also featured as a left-sided attacking midfielder in 2021.
Saha sees those advanced roles – in front of, say, Scott McTominay and Fred in holding midfield – as more beneficial for both Paul and the team, but insists we are yet to see the best of the World Cup-winner as he continues to find his stride after a slow start to the season affected by fitness problems.
“I still think he’s got a good 20 per cent [more] to give to the team, fitness-wise,” Saha told club media.
“He had to recover from COVID-19, he had to fight a lot to be back technically to where he can be.
“Tactically, now with the two sitting midfielders it allows him to bomb forward, whether he’s on the left or the right.
“I think he’s done really well to read the game better. He has to be a pain for the opposition. Sitting too deep is not good for him, but sitting too high is not good either.
“He needs to have that drive to allow him to bombard and give us another option other than Bruno Fernandes. I think it’s a good balance.”
The draw with Liverpool leaves United two points clear at the top of the Premier League, ahead of a chasing pack led by Manchester City and Leicester City.
Saha believes that, even with over half the season still to play, we are genuine challengers for a first top-flight crown in eight years, and that the performance at Anfield showcased the strong platform Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been building at Old Trafford - a vital attribute for sides harbouring realistic title hopes.
“You need to make sure you hang in there and are tough to beat, that’s the main thing,” added Saha, a two-time league winner with United, in 2007 and 2008.
“You could see the spirit of the guys [on Sunday], the things that we want to see week in, week out. We know they have the talent and, when on song, they can do the magic, but this is the foundation that needs to come. Then you have all the confidence to express yourself.
“The lack of organisation before, the lack of confidence, maybe fitness, all this combined was the reason why we were not able to compete but I think it was a good response.
“If you look at how far we’ve come since Ole joined, you can see those players getting more and more direction – concrete decision-making – which is what made us very proud on Sunday I think.”
Our next opponents are Fulham who, Saha, of course, turned out for between 2000 and 2004 before moving to Old Trafford - partly on the back of some fine performances and goals against the Reds.
“I do feel a bit torn!” replied Louis, when asked who he wants to emerge victorious on Wednesday.
“At the end, some things happened that left a bad taste in some ways, but I can’t be more thankful because they [Fulham] gave me everything in terms of being a football player.
“It was very unique for a striker. I felt Fulham was the family club I needed to perform [for].”
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY?
Ole will hold a press conference at the Aon Training Complex, to preview Wednesday’s Premier League clash at Fulham, as United aim to consolidate top spot.
The briefing begins at 13:30 GMT and you can watch live on MUTV, ManUtd.com and in the Official App – so you’ll be the first to hear any team news Ole might reveal.
It’s worth keeping an eye on the Leicester v Chelsea game later on (20:15 GMT). The Foxes sit third, two points behind United, and will overtake us for at least 24 hours with a win over Frank Lampard’s men.
WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY?
Finally, our Under-23s were back in action after the Christmas break. Neil Wood’s side lost 4-2 at Leicester City despite a couple of goals from Anthony Elanga, who had to go off with a shoulder injury towards the start of the second half.