manchestereveningnews: “There’s no doubt that a committed Paul Pogba to Manchester United can be a great player,” said Gary Neville about a week ago.
“He’s up there with some of the very best in his position in Europe. It’s just the case of settling down.
“I do believe he’s the one real world-class player – David de Gea I would have said two years ago – in Manchester United’s squad. He’s the one who should be leading from the front.”
Neville, the former United defender turned Sky Sports pundit, is nothing if not consistent. He did indeed say De Gea was “the only world-class player Manchester United have got” while speaking during the Jose Mourinho era, in February 2018.
Much has changed since then, both for United and in the wider world.
Games are now being routinely played behind closed doors due to a global pandemic, while two United players who Neville considered on the cusp of world class status two and a half years ago – Alexis Sanchez and Antonio Valencia – are out of sight and out of mind. Neither became world class at Old Trafford and both are now way past their peak.
Of course, definitions of the term ‘world class’ may vary depending on who is judging. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer waded into this debate recently when claiming his current United team contains two world class players in Pogba and Marcus Rashford.
“Even before lockdown we were on a strong run of form,” said the Norwegian after United’s 1-1 draw with Tottenham, the first game after the restart. “Now we’re able to call upon world-class players like Paul and Marcus returning from injury.”
If Pogba and Rashford are world class, and De Gea is no longer of that level following a string of high-profile errors, than surely Bruno Fernandes should be considered world class.
The Portuguese did not reach his sky-high standards in United’s laboured 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final win over Norwich on Saturday evening. He was guilty perhaps of trying too hard, shooting seven times in the 120-minute encounter and wasting possession more than has become his custom.
Yet still the statistics proved Fernandes was among United’s most instrumental players at Carrow Road, finding a teammate 72 times in the final third and creating five chances for the United forwards. As one account on Twitter put it: “If that’s him on a bad day then Man United have signed a serious player.”
On recent form, Anthony Martial looks ready to join the Old Trafford elite too.
In fact, he’s looked far sharper and more dangerous than attacking partner Rashford since the restart, shaking off a couple of costly misses at Tottenham to bag a ruthless hat-trick against Sheffield United. And, coming off the bench at Norwich, he looked to be a man brimming with confidence. Some of his footwork was utterly dazzling and he played a part in th winning goal.
If Martial can keep up his goal-scoring form, helped by the supply line from Pogba and Fernandes – and dovetailing with Rashford – Solskjaer’s attack will begin to look formidiable.
You could add in that Harry Maguire should be among Europe’s elite centre-backs, as the most expensive centre-back in the world and one of the Premier League’s best in his position. Or claim that Mason Greenwood has world class potential, which is undoubtedly true. Aaron Wan-Bissaka might be another ready to step into the ‘world class bracket’.
If Jadon Sancho arrives from Borussia Dortmund, that is a guaranteed fifth world class player and someone who’ll surely love playing with Pogba, Rashford, Fernandes and Martial.
United have come a long way since February 2018 and their squad is starting to reflect that.
Source: Published by manchestereveningnews