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The French midfielder has been excellent for Manchester United in recent weeks, playing with consistency, determination and happiness. Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his staff have offered him a new hybrid position, on the left side of a 4-2-3-1 formation, the results have been impressive.
“I feel really good right now,” Pogba said after United beat AS Roma 6-2 in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final on April 29. “I feel happy here. I play on the left side in a genre. of number 8 – wide, but with freedom when you have the ball. I like to play there. I bond well with Bruno [Fernandes] et Luke [Shaw], and the team’s balance is good too. “
It feels like he’s peaking at the right time for club and country, with Man United facing a series of critical league fixtures, the prospect of the Europa League final and, of course, the France’s quest to win the Euros. Pogba’s performance at Tottenham in the Premier League on April 11, with United winning 3-1, was world-class. Their display against Roma last week in the Europa League was also superb. In his last nine games (in all competitions) for United – most in his new position – he has scored twice and added four assists.
“When he plays like that, Paul is exceptional. There aren’t many players in the world who can do what he does, ”Solskjaer said after the game against Roma.
So what changed and what clicked for Pogba in the United squad? The position, for sure, to the point that Didier Deschamps also plans to play Pogba in a similar role with France at the Euros this summer (LIVE June 11 – July 11 on ESPN, ESPN +). It is certainly another option for him.
What else? His physical form. After an ankle injury last season, his test positive for COVID-19 earlier in the 2020-21 campaign and other minor complaints, he’s finally in great shape. He has worked very hard with the fitness coaches at Man United and like the rest of the squad is reaping the rewards.
And his state of mind? There is also a difference here. After the tensions at the end of 2020, which followed Mino Raiola’s words – “it’s over between Manchester United and Pogba” – the midfielder is fully focused on the end of the season and beyond … with Manchester United.
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“I’m happy here,” Pogba told me a few times after the game against Roma. He can see the squad improving and knows that if they had started the season better they would be much closer to Manchester City at the top. He wants to win the Europa League to almost validate United’s progress. He has a strong relationship with Solskjaer but also with the rest of the coaching staff, including Michael Carrick, and he also has a year left on his contract.
As for his future at club level, Pogba can certainly see himself staying longer and the club are confident he will do just that. Negotiating with Raiola on a new deal – Pogba’s contract expires on June 30, 2022 – won’t be easy, however, especially if the wage demands are too high. But it may not be that way. Pogba knows the club want to keep him and he expects talks to start as soon as the season ends. He also knows the market will not be in his favor this summer given the financial stress of the pandemic at all levels of the game.
At 28 and in this kind of form, Pogba is in a strong position and while that doesn’t suit United, he can also wait until entering the final year of his contract before deciding what is best. Before that, there is a European final to go to finishing the job against Roma, and the Euros to try to add to France’s World Cup victory in 2018.
Since Pogba returned to Old Trafford in the summer of 2016, shortly after France lost the Euro final to Portugal in Paris, the international has broken up with Blues were often a breath of fresh air for him in difficult times, a chance to relax away from the stress of Man United. Right now, the breath of fresh air is in his club, and French fans are hoping he can pick up that momentum in the Euros.