Pogba made his first appearance since Rangnick took charge of Manchester United against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup and impressed despite another dreadful display from the Red Devils
Manchester United’s dreadful defeat to Middlesbrough in the FA Cup may have been dire, but it did hand them a contract headache thanks to Paul Pogba ’s performance.
Pogba was making his first appearance under interim boss Ralf Rangnick, having missed the German’s reign so far because of suspension and injury.
Rangnick opted to start the Frenchman in central midfield for the visit of the Teessiders in the fourth round of the competition, which United went on to lose on penalties.
But while United’s performance as a whole was once again dreadful, Pogba did show enough to suggest he can be the man to breathe life into Rangnick’s plans at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils boss has consistently made it clear that Pogba will feature heavily in the closing months of the campaign, despite his rapidly expiring contract.
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Pogba’s deal will be up in the summer, with no sign of any progress being made in negotiations to keep him in Manchester.
Despite that situation, Rangnick had backed Pogba to excel against Chris Wilder’s men on Friday night.
“I’ll be excited myself to see how Paul is doing and like all the other players for me he is now a new player,” the German said.
“He can show me and the team – and the fans and everyone in England – how good he is and what high level he can play. Let’s just wait and see what he can show and what he can deliver.”
Pogba certainly lived up to that prediction, with the Frenchman putting in an impressive display considering the length of time he has spent on the sidelines.
The 28-year-old had a pass success rate of 88 per cent, completed both of his dribbles and won the penalty that Cristiano Ronaldo missed.
He was also diligent in his defensive duties, winning nine duels, making eight recoveries and winning three of his aerial duels.
Away from that statistics, Pogba also displayed a knack for unlocking a stubborn Middlesbrough defence.
It was an encouraging display overall from the French midfielder, who certainly injected a spark into United’s play.
It was telling that they lost some of the spark when Fred was brought on to replace him with eight minutes of normal time remaining.
While Rangnick will be delighted with the short-term gain that a fully fit Pogba in this kind of form will bring, there is a longer-term concern.
Pogba’s performance clearly shows that he can be a key player for United, but his departure looks virtually nailed on.
There is little doubt that this leaves United with somewhat of a headache, with Pogba’s performance against Middlesbrough evidence of how he can run games for the Red Devils.
That means United will need to quickly find a breakthrough in their negotiations over a new deal, with Pogba now able to sign a pre-contract agreement with an overseas club.
Having lived up to Rangnick’s prediction against Middlesbrough, Pogba proved that letting him go could prove to be a mistake on United’s part.