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Why Pogba's Newcastle masterclass thrusts Man Utd back into the title race

COMMENT: Ibra's back. Lukaku's scoring goals again. But both storylines pale in comparison to the performance of Paul Pogba in Manchester United's demolition of Newcastle United on Saturday.

One thing became clear following the 4-1 victory at Old Trafford: United had been missing the one player that can help them win the Premier League.

With a goal and an assist, the Frenchman didn't look as though he hadn't played a match in eight weeks. But of course, he hadn't.

He was energetic, enthusiastic and decisive. And for United's sake, that's exactly what he needed to be.

Prior to the match, Manchester City had opened up an 11 point gap at the top of table. Given City's ability to seemingly score at will, a gap such as that seemed insurmountable, even if it only is November.

If the United fans were nervous before kick-off, Dwight Gayle's early opener for the Magpies left them in disarray.

As Rafa Benitez sent his men deep into their own territory, the task became arduous for United. The Spanish manager had his troops organised and disciplined. When one man switched to put pressure on a player, one of his teammates quickly shuffled across to fill the space left behind.

It was an all too familiar sight for United fans. In both of their losses this season - to Huddersfield and Chelsea - they were the first to concede. In response, Jose Mourinho's side looked void of ideas and ingenuity. Of course, it is no coincidence that Pogba missed both games.

And sure enough, with the half-time interval closing in on Saturday, the 6'3 midfielder provided the spark United needed.

On the right wing, he baited Isaac Hayden with some nifty footwork and earned himself a yard of space. Then with precision and guile, he took the pace off his cross and lofted it teasingly in the air, giving Anthony Martial plenty of time to judge his leap and head home.

What would have in the last eight weeks been a slog for the rest of the game had now become an even contest that United were always going to win.

Speaking about his star player after the game, Mourinho said: "He was different class.

"He looked like he wasn't out for such a long time without playing football.

"At the beginning of the season we had Paul and Matic growing up together and being like the engine of the team. We lost a little bit of that; other players are good players but they have different qualities."

Nobody knows that more than Mourinho. That's why Pogba was thrown straight into the starting line-up when many expected him to be placed on the bench. Mourinho has good players, sure. But he doesn't have players with the same ability as Pogba.

This type of talent is reserved for the upper echelon of footballers. And it is vital that every top team has at least one of them if they are going to win the league title. Think along the lines of Lionel Messi for Barcelona or Cristiano Ronaldo for Real Madrid. Or closer to home, you only have to look at City.

Pep Guardiola's side are still undefeated after 12 matches this season. And although they've had many contributors to their success, Kevin De Bruyne has been the key to it all.

Comparing the Belgian with Pogba is easy. Both provide the creative spark for their team, possess an expansive range of passing and can see things other players can't.

But what makes these sorts of players differ from their peers is they have the ability to consistently win matches off their own boot.

As Newcastle's demise indicates, it doesn't matter how organised or disciplined you are, if a player like Pogba or De Bruyne is coming up against you, sometimes there is just no way of stopping them.

The next four weeks could potentially be season defining for the Red Devils. They have seven matches, including a tricky away trip to Arsenal and an eagerly anticipated Manchester derby at Old Trafford.

But with the return of their talisman, United have every chance of coming out on top.

Video Courtesy of Football Minds

Andrew Maclean
About the author

Andrew Maclean

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