Who was Manchetser United’s Star Man against Newcastle United?

Man of the Match manunited.uk

The great basketball coach John Wooden once said that ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.

So if Manchester United are to challenge their runaway rivals City then personality injected into the foundations of the squad will be key.

It’s why the return of Paul Pogba against Newcastle United was so crucial. The French midfield maestro doesn’t just optimise a player who can create space in the final third of the pitch, but one who installs an identity within the United team.

There is no doubt that the Red Devils possess one of the most talented teams in the Premier League, yet against Liverpool, Huddersfield, and Chelsea they struggled to dominate the central area of the pitch.

With Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic patrolling the midfield it would be unfair to say that United lacked power or presence, but without Pogba there was a lack of dynamism.

Against Rafa Benitez’s side, it returned. Pogba’s presence lifted the United team, with the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, and Romelu Lukaku grateful that they could be assured of consistent deliveries into the box.

Even after Dwight Gayle had opened the scoring for the away side there seemed an inevitability that with Pogba sewing the midfield and attack together United would come back and triumph over 90 minutes.

And Newcastle knew it. When Pogba’s dinked cross found his fellow countryman Martial at the back post, it levelled the match but there was a feeling of momentum change.

Then when Chris Smalling crashed in a header before half-time, Jose Mourinho’s team knew that it was their match to lose.

So it was handy for them that in Pogba they had somebody who could put the game beyond any doubt, a 54-minute tap-in all but confirming United would be going home with the three points.

Lukaku’s powerful strike added the cherry to the icing to the top of the cake, but it was Pogba who ran the show.

Two key passes, combined with four successful aerial duels and 82 touches, told a tale of a man whose red hair was not just the highlight under the lights at Old Trafford.

The question is now, as United contest their final UEFA Champions League games, and with Arsenal and City on the horizon, whether Pogba can perform consistently every week.

If he can the Red Devils will be a force to be reckoned with.