Juan Mata has admitted Paul Pogba’s suspension for the Manchester derby is a huge blow to Manchester United’s chances in the key title clash.
The Reds will be without Pogba against Manchester City after the French midfielder was sent off in the 74th-minute of Man United’s fantastically ruthless 3-1 win against Arsenal, in which Pogba assisted two of the goals.
Mata has insisted United’s squad can cope with the injury, but their form without Pogba when the 24-year-old was injured for two months between mid-September and mid-November tells a different story.
“Yeah, big miss,” Mata conceded when asked about Pogba in the wake of United’s 2-1 win against CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League, where Pogba got another assist. “He’s a fantastic player.
“He did a fantastic assist (on Tuesday). He’s a very complete midfielder, he can do all things. He will be a big miss but another player will play and try his best.
“I think we have a good squad and have good players to replace any other player. Hopefully we can win for him.”
Pogba himself has said he trusts his teammates to pull off a win against City. That task has been made monumentally harder with his absence, which is unfortunate, having been sent off for going studs up on Hector Bellerin.
The referee had little option, but Pogba only collided with Bellerin due to the unconventional shape of Bellerin’s body in the tackle. A normal tackle from the Spaniard would have seen Pogba step on his foot and receive a yellow card at most.
But United have to move on, and take advantage of their underdog status at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. They are unbeaten in 40 home games after Tuesday night’s win against CSKA, a stunning record, a club-record. They’ve scored, on average, more than two goals a game since the November international break and Man City have just been beaten by Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.
Hopefully, Jose Mourinho has a masterplan to cope without Pogba and United can pull off an unexpected and hugely important win in the context of the title race.