MANCHESTER: Paul Pogba has been hailed as the “best midfielder in the world” by Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the Frenchman returned from a long injury lay-off.
The World Cup winner was in action for United for the first time since late September as a substitute in their chastening 2-0 defeat at Watford on Sunday.
He could be in the starting team against Newcastle on Thursday as Solskjaer desperately seeks the creativity the team needs to break down stubborn opposition defences.
“Let’s see how he reacts to this, how he feels,” said Solskjaer. “He did really well when he came on. Big, big plus and it might be that we do get him in from the start.”
Pogba, who had only played twice since the end of August due to an ankle injury, was introduced on Sunday with United already trailing by two goals and went close to scoring during a late attacking flurry from the visitors.
“He can play anywhere, he can play the whole midfield,” said Solskjaer.
“He’s a box-to-box midfielder. He can drop deep, get it, play long passes. He can get it higher up and combine like he did today.”
“That’s the beauty of having Paul because he is the best all-round midfielder in the world,” added the United boss, who has said the 26-year-old will not be leaving in the January transfer window despite links with Real Madrid.
Solskjaer said he was looking for a reaction from his players against Newcastle after United again failed to turn dominance of possession into a positive result at Watford.
“One of the good things about the team this year, we have reacted after bad results,” he said.
“We haven’t kept the consistency as we would have liked the other way but we’ve never gone on a big (bad) run as we did towards the end of last season so there will be a reaction, definitely.”
United are struggling in eighth place in the Premier League, seven points behind fourth-placed Chelsea despite recent morale-boosting wins against Tottenham and Manchester City.
Solskjaer admitted progress had been slower than expected but said he was focused on developing a team that could dominate and break sides down.
“It’s taken Liverpool a few years to get to that stage and we need to keep on the building because that’s what we want to get to,” he said.
“Yes, we’re good at counter-attacking. Yes, we’ve got pace and fast players. We should always keep that because that’s in our tradition. Now we need to be better at breaking lower blocks.”