Eric Cantona has likened Paul Pogba’s importance in the middle for Manchester United to that of Luke Modric to Real Madrid.
The Frenchman’s superb start to the 2017/18 campaign was cut short by a hamstring injury and Man United’s performances faltered as a result.
His return to the starting XI precipitated an immediate response, with Jose Mourinho’s men romping to a commanding 4-1 win over Newcastle United in the Premier League last weekend.
And Cantona, speaking in an interview with Full Time Devils, described Pogba as the ‘brain of the team’.
“I think he is a very creative player,” he said.
“Every team when you have a good player injured suffers of course. He is as important as [Luka] Modric for Real when he is injured it’s not the same team and you can see that in the last five or six years every time he is injured the team isn;t the same.
“Pogba has the same influence in the team he is the brain of the team.”
Only the very best midfielders can truly mould a game in their image and Pogba is undoubtedly one of them.
Tempo, fluidity through the lines, inviting passes forward, pure confidence, an element of swagger – all of these attributes, seen at various points this season, stem from the Frenchman’s creative zeal in the middle. Pogba is more than the brain of this team; he is the heartbeat as well.
But while Cantona’s comparison with Modric is valid, one important difference lies between the pair. While United, as seen against FC Basel, seem to run out of ideas and go backwards in Pogba’s absence, Madrid will usually find a way to get over the line despite the absence of Modric’s princely influence.
They have enough players – the likes of Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio, Isco, Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos, Casemiro, Marcelo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale – capable of producing a decisive moment that tips the balance in their favour.
And this, perhaps more than anything, is what continues to separate United from the very best in the world at this moment in time.