Paul Pogba has noted that watching Manchester City win the Premier League would have felt like “death” for supporters and insisted he wasn’t going to let it happen.
The champions-elect, on a day that could have seen them wrap up the title against their neighbours, raced into a two goal lead at half time with a scintillating display of sharp, rapid attacking football, showing the watching world exactly why they were 16 points ahead of Manchester United ahead of the game.
But then Pogba, anonymous in the first half, simply grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck, driving forward with a sense of fervour rarely seen this year and claiming two excellent goals in the space of 97 seconds to set up an historic win on a day where everybody expected the history writing to be done by the blue side.
Speaking after the game, the Frenchman reflected the sentiments of supporters, noting that he simply couldn’t bare the prospect of City winning the title in front of United.
“I didn’t want to lose against City,” he said. “The loss from last season is still in my mind. If they won, they are champions, for all the fans it would be like death.”
“To lose against City and to see them celebrate, I couldn’t let that happen. At half-time in the dressing room we said, ‘We have nothing to lose, 2-0, let’s do it’.”
“After a second half like this, we have to do that all the time. If we did we would be up there [in the league] with City, and maybe even in front.”
United’s response in the second half was an attitudinal one. Every player seemed to have that extra bit of confidence on the ball, committing themselves forward knowing there was nothing to lose, determined to not go gently into the night.
But it was comprehensively led by Pogba. The 25-year-old underwent a truly remarkable metamorphosis at half time and came out looking like the midfielder we always hoped he would be: ubiquitous on the pitch, dictating tempo, charging forward, dazzling on the ball, simply rousing.
He committed himself forward at a high tempo – something he could have done more of at times this season – and it ended for City a winning run at home in the league that dated back to August, depriving them of making history in the process.