Paul Pogba leads by example as Manchester United sweep aside Young Boys in routine Champions League win

Young Boys 0-3 Manchester United: Pogba captained Jose Mourinho's side to a convincing win

Mark Critchley
Wednesday 19 September 2018 22:35

The next time you are tempted to assess Paul Pogba's Manchester United career to date and find yourself coming up short of stellar performances, be sure to remember this simple, unspectacular but brutally effective display which secured victory against game Champions League minnows.

Pogba captained the side for this 3-0 victory over Young Boys in Antonio Valencia's absence and led by example - scoring a brilliant first, converting a penalty for the second and setting up Antony Martial's third.

With Valencia and Juventus to come, three points away from home against Group H's bottom seeds were both essential and expected. Jose Mourinho would also want his side to build on the encouraging domestic displays that have eased the tensions which recently surrounded the club.

For the opening half-hour, against these plucky Young Boys, a shock did not seem beyond the realms of possibility. Pre-match fears that the Stade de Suisse's artificial pitch could play into the hosts' hands appeared well-founded.

Yet from the moment Pogba shifted his weight from right to left, shimmying into space to fire off his brilliant first, United settled. Once the three-goal lead was established, Young Boys came again, but any goal would only have been a consolation. Pogba had already decided the result.

It was the type of performance that can easily be dismissed as routine and forgotten in the great debate around the Frenchman's contribution to United since returning two years ago. Yet it was also a reminder of the game-changing quality a player of his talent possess and how, despite the many distractions, such quality often comes in handy.

Following improved performances at Burnley and Watford, and Mourinho's admission on Tuesday to "changing our profile of play", his teamsheet contained a couple of potentially significant selections.

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial - who have fairly found themselves in favour since Alexis Sanchez's arrival - started together for the first time since May. Sanchez, the man who displaced both, would have to make to do with a place on the substitutes' bench.

Pogba was brutally effective

There was a debut, too, for the teenage full-back and £19million summer signing Diogo Dalot, fully recovered from the knee injury that postponed this first United appearance.

How United could have used the 19-year-old's physical, adventurous wing play during their difficult start to the campaign. Dalot immediately caught the eye, besting opposite number Loris Benito on several occasions in the opening stages, with a dangerous cross following each time.

A slick, heavily-watered surface no doubt helped but the artificial pitch also suited Young Boys' efforts to counter-attack. Their own right-back, the quicksilver Kevin Mbabu, was threatening as much as Dalot and saw one menacing early cross almost converted Guillaume Hoarau.

Mohamed Ali Camara came closest for the Swiss champions, forcing David de Gea into an ungainly, over-handed save after firing from range. Young Boys began to sense a vulnerability in their opponents. Dalot's first mistake in a United shirt was a slip, allowing Christian Fassnacht space to shoot, but Victor Lindelof's block bailed Dalot out.

Just as it seemed United could be made to pay for a familiar lack of fluency in attack, their most naturally-gifted player delivered a moment of virtuosic excellence.

The opportunity seemed lost. Camara's tackle on Fred and readiness to close down the loose ball made Pogba's first touch difficult. His second, though, was immaculate, rounding Camara easily. The third, with his left foot, sent the ball into goalkeeper David von Ballmoos' top right-hand corner.

A second would soon follow, but in somewhat fortunate fashion. Luke Shaw's first-time cross definitely struck Mbabu's arm, but only while it was pressed firmly against his chest. Deliberate? It is difficult to say.

Pogba, in any case, picked up the ball and bravely persevered with the stuttered run-up that failed to intimidate Joe Hart at Turf Moor earlier this month. Von Ballmoos reached his effort but without enough force to stop it rising into the roof of the net.

Paul Pogba's first goal was well-taken

If United's opener had checked their hosts' momentum, this disputed penalty on the cusp of the interval took the game away from them entirely. Their response after the break was a meagre one. Miralem Sulejmani briefly threatened to reduce the arrears while darting in behind after the break but Roger Assalé could not convert his cross.

To their credit, United had stymied those counter-attacks that came in the opening half-hour and tamed the noisy home crowd. They fell fully silent for United's third - Martial's first at club level since January. Pogba spotted his compatriot in space on the right, played him in and watched on as the finish clipped in off Camara.

In the closing stages, Young Boys rediscovered some of their first-half vigour and Camara should have found the consolation from a corner at point-blank range. Instead, he clipped the outside of the post.

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