Frank Lampard has showered praise on the way Paul Pogba turned into a “different man” during the second half of Manchester United’s 3-2 win over Manchester City.
The Frenchman looked to be playing his own game in the first half, unsuccessfully attempting to bypass Man City’s midfield as Man United found themselves growingly bogged down by the dominant hosts.
But the second half was a different story: Pogba was everywhere, stroking the ball precisely and invitingly through the lines and bringing United level with two goals in just 97 seconds.
And Lampard, speaking on Match of the Day, was astounded by the 25-year-old’s game-changing second half performance.
“With that haircut you need to perform,” he said. “A lot’s been spoken about him all season, for good and for bad. In the first-half we saw the negative side of Paul Pogba, he didn’t really threaten the midfield or the back line of Manchester City.”
“He was passive. Sometimes he has a tendency just to trot slightly in games. He can be over elaborate in midfield and that doesn’t do anything – in fact it invites pressure.
“But in the second-half, he was a different man. He showed he can play with responsibility and still get in goalscoring positions. He needs to time his runs like he did for the second goal when Sanchez put it on a plate for him.
“If he does that more – and he’s got all the attributes to do that regularly, he could score a lot more goals and be that real top-class midfielder that he’s threatening to be.”
If Mourinho was still unsure about where the crux of his team lies, or how this team can consistently unlock their remarkable attacking potential, then the second half on Saturday – and specifically Pogba’s performance – spelled it out for him in black ink.
His position in the second half compared to the first only marginally changed – just off the back of City’s midfield, drifting into the space. It was his forward impetus, his desire to make inroads higher up the pitch – something encouraged by Michael Carrick at half time – that truly made the difference. He surged forward and those around him, most notably Sanchez, reciprocated.
It was further affirmation of what supporters have been saying for some time: that when Pogba breathes, the whole team sings.