Perhaps the most visible difference in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s attacking revamp with Manchester United is the reemergence of Paul Pogba as the club’s best player.
From being benched under Jose Mourinho, the Frenchman is now at the heart of the team, and is proving to be the player who will define the Norwegian’s tenure at Old Trafford.
Let us have a look at precisely how this change was brought about:
The most obvious difference between the styles of Mourinho and Solskjaer is the importance the latter places on an attacking ethos. Pogba has played significantly further up in the three games under Solskjaer than he ever did under the Portuguese tactician. Further, this change in position is accompanied by significant freedom – Pogba is no longer held back to fulfill defensive duties alone or man just the midfield.
This has resulted in a significantly changed player, and the stats are there to prove it. Under Solskjaer, the Frenchman has netted 4 goals, found 3 assists, and attempted 13 shots, all of them the highest figures amongst any Manchester United player.
What is even more impressive is that his tally of 1.8 accurate shots per game is the highest of any player in the Premier League, and falls just short of matching those posted by Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Kylian Mbappe, effectively putting him amongst the best in Europe.
A change in form alone hasn’t brought this difference. In fact, irrespective of whether the club lines up in a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, the mentality is simple – build the attack around Pogba. In the latter, the Frenchman is seen fulfilling the role of a no.10, to some astonishing results.
It is important to note that the change in guard doesn’t mean that Pogba is ignoring his defensive duties. To the contrary, he is pressing quite high, and has shown a penchant for winning the ball. Regardless, the new setup places more defensive reliance on Matic and Herrera, who are the rock of the side’s back, further cementing Pogba’s freedom.
In fact, Solskjaer has managed to bring about this change by deploying the men around Pogba in a different manner. The full-backs are quite crucial in making the most out of his abilities, being allowed to run quite high up and release the ball to either him or other forwards. This technique was quite obvious during his brace against Bournemouth.
Further, the sole striker in this setup is no longer the solitary target man, but is rather encouraged to make runs. This fluid role best suits Rashford, who is able to make the most out of Pogba’s Scholes-esque passes upfront. This approach is encouraged by Solskjaer.
Further, this more dynamic setup also allows more chances for the Frenchman to link-up with attackers, resulting in him spending far more time as a threat in and around the box.
By creating and exploiting chances much more often than he did under Mourinho, Pogba’s abilities are taken full advantage of. He has directly been involved in 13 Premier League goals all season, and one can only imagine the kind of damage he’ll continue to inflict in the months to come.