Matic signing will improve Paul Pogba

CARSON, CA - JULY 15: Paul Pogba
CARSON, CA - JULY 15: Paul Pogba /

Manchester United’s newest signing Nemanja Matic will improve the performances of Paul Pogba this season. 

Paul Pogba returned to Manchester United last summer from Juventus for a world record fee of £89 million, there was obviously much expected from him. Pogba had left Manchester United in the summer of the 2012 to join Juventus after a falling out with ten manager Sir Alex Ferguson and had excelled for many years as an advanced playmaker in a midfield three alongside some combination of Arturo Vidal, Andrea Pirlo or Claudio Marchisio.

Last season, Pogba came under a lot of scrutiny for his performances as many did not believe that his performances warranted the price tag that he came with. Of course, a lot of this was rubbish as Pogba had shined in a three-man midfield with Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick before initially struggling to adapt to Mourinho’s change of formation to a 4-2-3-1 where he was required to play with more defensive responsibilities.

If you want to get the best out of a player like Pogba – giving him more defensive responsibilities and forcing him to play deeper down the pitch is not the solution. This is the issue that he had at the European Championships with France.

Pogba thrives when he is allowed a free role on the pitch, where he does not have to worry about his defensive positioning and where he can focus more on creating chances high up the pitch along with thundering in a long-range shot from outside the book. In many ways, he’s similar to a younger Yaya Toure who also struggled for Manchester City in a flat two-man midfield.

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This is where the signing of Nemanja Matic comes in. He might not be the most fashionable player, he isn’t going to ping the ball across the pitch onto the toes of an oncoming striker perfectly like Xabi Alonso, or dictate the tempo of a game like Pirlo but what he does do well is break up attacks.

He is a pure defensive midfielder, somebody who is going to break up the play and lay off a simple pass to the more creative players. His presence on the pitch allows Pogba and Herrera the benefit of freedom to roam higher up the pitch while he sits deep and negates opponents hitting United on the counter attack.

Do not let the media’s attacks against Pogba fool you, he was very good last season and when he was missing, United’s midfield was often left disjointed and in a mess. He created a high level of chances last season and a high level of passes completed despite playing out of a position in a system that did not suit him. He would have racked up a higher number of assists last season if United’s finishing was better than what it actually was.

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Now that United have signed Matic, they will going with a three-man midfield – whether that is lining up as a 4-3-3 which is a classic Mourinho system or going with a 3-5-2 which United did use sparingly in the later stages of the season is an entirely different question that remains to be seen. But Pogba’s performances with a proper defensive midfielder behind him will benefit him and he should finally start to show a lot of people why United paid £89 million for him and broke the transfer record.