Paul Pogba Peach Pushes united Forward
After Manchester City beat Aston Villa to take top spot, a pearler from Paul Pogba helped Manchester United to overcome an early deficit and reclaim the Premier League lead tonight at Craven Cottage.
Manchester United’s record signing has been much maligned since his return to Old Trafford, with his performances failing to live up to his price tag.
However, the swagger has returned to the Frenchman, who has found his feet under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and is now making the sort of contributions the United faithful had been dreaming of.
United found themselves down 1-0 after just five minutes, when Ademola Lookman sprung the offside trap and calmly slotted the ball past David de Gea and into the net.
Things could have been worse for United, who were played off the pitch by a team fighting relegation.
In midfield the industrious Fred was a constant thorn in Fulham’s side, and his quick thinking and pass to Bruno Fernandes set up Edinson Cavani for a tap in after a costly error from Fulham keeper Alphonse Areola.
In the second half, with the scores tied at 1-1 United were ponderous on the ball and their passing was too slow, and Fulham were able to repel their attacks.
Out of nowhere, Pogba took possession outside the box and curled a screamer past the outstretched hand of Areola.
“It was a hard game. We knew it would be difficult here, they don’t give up, they press, they stay compact behind. We concede a goal and went behind and knew it would be hard and we had to come back. We needed this win and we got it the hard way.”
“I hit it well. I didn’t expect my left foot to be like this. You know, if you don’t try you don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m really glad the ball went in. It was a beautiful goal and a beautiful victory. That’s the most important.”
“I love winning. It’s all about winning. I will always be happy when I win, and I will always be happy when I’m on the pitch. Today we won, so I’m happy. The day we lose I’ll be angry again. This is me,” said Pogba.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was delighted to leave the capital with three points secured, despite the slow start.
“I think we started slow and after their goal I felt we did well. That was what we needed; we needed to wake up. I don’t think we had shaken off the game on Sunday, but after that we did really well, we scored. Poor again [after that], trying to be too direct and to go in behind and the Hollywood passes, then a fantastic goal by Paul and we had some great chances in the second half to finish the game. When it’s only one goal, with the players they’ve put on, it’s always going to be like heart in your mouth.”
“Oh, they’re massive, they are. You know, when you count the points at the end of the season, you look back and say that was a tight game and this was a tight game. It gives so much confidence and a morale boost as well to get three points instead of a draw. Easily towards the end it could have been [a draw], because they’ve created chances, David [De Gea]’s made a fantastic save with his feet but we should have finished the game off before then.”
The manager was pleased with his match-winner, and is excited to see him kicking on this season.
“He’s really come on. He’s fit, he can play in midfield, he can play wide – that’s the key with Paul, getting him match fit and really running fit, and he is at the moment. An early yellow and he still defended really well; he still stood his ground and there was one tackle in the second half I was worried about, [he] could have got the lad. But he played very well.”
Cavani’s equaliser was reminiscent of many of the goals Solskjaer fired in as a player, which pleased his boss.
“That’s a centre-forward’s goal and you’ve got to be there to score. That’s what he does. If you just watch him, if you have a player cam on him, his movement is incredible, fantastic. We’ve just got to get used to using him more. In the second half when he gets his header, what a save by [Alphonse] Areola. So it’s good to have different options up front.”
While United’s attention will now turn to an FA Cup showdown with Liverpool at Old Trafford, the manager is pleased to have regained top spot in the Premier League.
“It’s always going to be talked about when we’re halfway through and you’re top of the league, but we’re not really thinking about this. We’ve just got to go one game at a time and keep everyone healthy and fresh and see where we are. We are getting better, the players are getting better, they’re stronger, more robust – physically, mentally. We’ve seen so many times this season coming back from 1-0 down, so I’m pleased with the progress and very proud of how they’re conducting themselves. At the training ground, the preparations for the games, the staff… fantastic,” concluded Solskjaer.