Solskjaer effect has Pogba back in form

Manchester United's Paul Pogba celebrates after scoring their second goal against Huddersfield. It was the Frenchman's first goal at Old Trafford since October.
Manchester United's Paul Pogba celebrates after scoring their second goal against Huddersfield. It was the Frenchman's first goal at Old Trafford since October.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • One of the reasons Ed Woodward appointed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United's interim manager was based on the belief that the Norwegian could get the best out of Paul Pogba.

It was the former striker who gave a 16-year-old Pogba his debut for United's reserve team in 2009 and his admiration for the midfielder has not dimmed.

Four months ago, when Jose Mourinho's faith in the player was waning, Solskjaer, who is on loan from Norwegian club Molde till the end of the season, said he "would absolutely, no doubt build the United team around him".

His ringing endorsement was repaid by Pogba, who scored only his second brace in the Premier League, in their 3-1 home win over Huddersfield on Boxing Day.

With the midfielder adding to his two assists in the 5-1 win at Cardiff, Solskjaer feels that United are finally seeing the "Paul I know".

He said: "He is one I really enjoyed (watching today). The Paul I've known since he was in the reserves and youth team with me.

"He has always been a happy boy, he's always had a big smile on his face. Paul loves playing for this club. He's a United boy through and through, a kid who knows what it means to play for United."

Pogba had been benched for the three league games prior to Mourinho's sacking, but Solskjaer has shown faith since taking over, restoring the French World Cup winner to his two starting line-ups.

While the Red Devils again cruised to victory, the outcome could have been different if goalkeeper David de Gea had not kept out an effort from Laurent Depoitre moments before the hosts' second goal, scored by Pogba.

"Dave's save was the defining moment. One of the best saves I've seen," said Solskjaer.

The 46-year-old also touched on his return to Old Trafford, where he spent 11 seasons as a player.

He said: "It's special to walk out there, hearing the crowd again singing my song. Normally, they started after I scored a goal, not before the game after I walked out.

"I'll never forget these two games."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2018, with the headline 'Solskjaer effect has Pogba back in form'. Print Edition | Subscribe