Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has told Paul Pogba that he leaves Manchester United’s back four exposed by going forward too often.
The Frenchman, despite a two month lay-off, has enjoyed a sensational start to the 2017/18 campaign, claiming three goals and six assists from 11 starts.
He produced a decisive performance during Man United’s 2-1 win over CSKA Moscow on Tuesday night but will, perhaps crucially, miss the Manchester derby on Sunday through suspension.
But Gerrard, speaking on BT Sport after the game, has noted that the 24-year-old could benefit from picking and choosing when he decides to go forward.
“I think if there’s one small, tiny criticism of this player it would be that he goes forward maybe too much,” he said. “If he’s playing in central midfield with one other player ie. a Matic, he might leave him a bit exposed.”
“I had a similar criticism of myself when I played in that position with Didi Hamann or Xabi Alonso – I was eager to get into the box all the time and with experience and age and a bit more maturity, you maybe pick and choose your times where you make your runs forward.”
To restrict Pogba from expressing himself at this stage in his career would be counterproductive. As Gerrard himself notes, only the experience of winning and losing through time can provide a valuable lesson for how you should balance yourself in midfield. This cannot be absorbed as a set of instructions, but rather as a more experiential development.
But this isn’t the worst problem to have. Most 24-year-old midfielders are still honing their technical apparatus, developing their touch, vision, and overall execution.
Not Pogba. The Frenchman can already do everything that can be realistically asked of a midfielder. There aren’t many his age with such a fully rounded game. Where he can improve, over time, will revolve more around deploying the right piece of skill for a particular moment in the game. The rest promises to follow seamlessly.