That was the question Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher passionately debated on Monday Night Football, after the French midfielder was ruled out of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s starting XI against Chelsea on Saturday.
Neville had explained earlier on the show how Solskjaer had gone back to basics with Scott McTominay and Fred anchoring the midfielder, with Bruno Fernandes in front of them, and how that bolstered United’s defensive coverage while freeing the point guard from Portuguese game.
But Neville also believes Solskjaer will be under pressure to get United’s record-signing Pogba back into the squad – and that Pogba can succeed in a midfield unit with Fernandes.
However, Carragher disagreed – and suggested that Pogba was “a great talent” but his lack of positional discipline kept him from being a great player.
Here’s what each expert said …
Gary Neville: At some point, Pogba will have to enter the squad. I think he’s a brilliant player for Manchester United. He can be a fantastic player, I think he can make an impact in the games, he has the courage, the skills, the experience and the winning mindset to play in these games.
Jamie Carragher: You told me when we debated it, about David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, never expecting them to be able to do what they did [in terms of improving their tactical discipline]. What you’re talking about Pogba on the left and Fernandes on the right, you still need to have discipline in those roles. Silva and De Bruyne had that. When Nemanja Matic takes the ball, let’s say it’s Fernandinho, he doesn’t have to look up and he knows De Bruyne would be there, Silva would be there. These players had great discipline in this form. The players you’re talking about don’t have that. If Matic or Fred is in this position Fernandes could be on the wing, Pogba could be center-forward.
The first time I analyzed Paul Pogba, four years ago, was in a Manchester derby and he was playing in the central midfielder, and he was standing on the left wing for the penalty shootout, and I said on this show that I can a world class talent not understand where he needs to be for a goal kick.
You just said Pogba is a great player, I would say he’s a great talent. Incredible talent, there’s nothing he can’t do a certain way, but great talent doesn’t always make a great player.
You just said Pogba is a great player, I would say he’s a great talent. Incredible talent, there’s nothing he can’t do a certain way, but great talent doesn’t always make a great player. I don’t think his understanding of the game is amazing and I think that’s what defines a great player and I think that’s what makes him a great talent rather than a great player.
Neville: He played on the left in a four for Juventus, he played on the left and did it consistently and did it very well. I have a lot of trouble understanding how a player who played for Juventus in a brilliant team and won many titles, continues to play in a brilliant French team in a World Cup and wins a World Cup, and so on. is a star in this team, can not be considered a great player?
I don’t think Manchester United have been a good team in recent years, I don’t think Paul Pogba has played brilliantly for Manchester United. But the idea that he cannot be a great player because he lacks a bit of discipline …
If you had told me that De Bruyne would become what he has under Pep Guardiola, I would have said there was no chance. There’s no way he could be as good defensively as he was offensively, which he did. He was a massive luxury player in the sense that he was a brilliant player, but on the ball not off the ball. He was coached and moved into a job he created.
I’m not giving up hope that Matic, Pogba, Fernandes can’t play together in these three, there will come a time when the burden of having Paul Pogba on your shoulder will shine brightly on Ole. He’s going to have to get him into the squad alongside Fernandes, as he did after the lockout where they did well together, had good results.
I do not share your pessimism about it.
I think it can happen again. I do not share your pessimism about it.
Carragher: How, after four years at Manchester United, are you still talking about finding Pogba’s best position and can Ole get more from him, can he add discipline to his game? He’s been there for four years!
If he’s as good as you think he is or Ole can get more out of him, why are we still having these conversations now, almost hoping or believing that he may be something he hasn’t shown in four? years? I do not understand.
Neville: This debate on whether they can play together or if they can play as a team together… If you had told me 10 years ago, I would have said “no, forget that”. But the way the teams are now developing with the players, Manchester City have won the league with Aguero, Sterling, Sane, De Bruyne, Silva and Fernandinho as the top six.
Carragher: They have discipline! They won leagues before Pep Guardiola arrived.
Neville: Pogba has spent seven or eight months with Fernandes, three of which are on lockdown. Two have been preseason, he had Covid about four weeks ago, I don’t think they’ve been able to play so much together.
I don’t think we should write it today. At Christmas, if they can’t play together, if the results don’t improve with the two of them on the squad, that’s fine. But it’s too early.
Carragher: If United were playing in a big game against City or Liverpool, would you play those two in midfield?
Neville: I would have no problem playing them both in midfield.
Analysis: why Solskjaer returned ‘to his roots’ with the midfielder against Chelsea
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has ‘gone back to basics’ and returned to his trusted midfielder to resolve the team’s defensive issues and help Bruno Fernandes, Gary Neville said. Monday night football.
United entered the international break earlier this month on the back of a 6-1 home beating against Tottenham, having previously lost 3-1 at Old Trafford to Crystal Palace and beaten Brighton 3-2 with a late penalty .
But since resuming the Premier League, United have beaten Newcastle 4-1 and drawn 0-0 with Chelsea, in addition to securing an impressive 2-1 Champions League victory at Paris Saint-Germain.
Sky Sports specialist Neville explained that Solskjaer’s return to playing two midfielders behind Fernandes – opposed to trying to play Paul Pogba with only one defensive midfielder and Fernandes – is key to the turnaround.
Read the analysis here