12 Feb, 14:00
Paul Pogba is struggling to find his best form at the base of Manchester United's midfield of late. According to Arsenal legend Martin Keown, this is all down to Jesse Lingard.
Pogba was dropped for last weekend's win over Huddersfield but was restored to the starting line-up by Jose Mourinho at Newcastle on Sunday. However, the Frenchman failed to impress as United slumped to a 1-0 defeat and was hauled off after 66 minutes. It was another below-par display from the ex-Juventus man, who again lined up at the base of midfield alongside Nemanja Matic.
Not his best formation?
Mourinho continues to prefer a 4-2-3-1 formation, but Pogba's best displays this term have often come in a 4-3-3 formation - most notably the away win at Everton. Ex-Arsenal defender Martin Keown, writing in his Daily Mail column, believes that Jesse Lingard's excellent season is proving Pogba's biggest problem.
"The Frenchman is at his best when he is in the final third hitting shots, going at defenders, being creative and making those buccaneering runs into the box," declared Keown. "At Juventus, he would often have a midfielder like Andrea Pirlo sitting deeper which allowed him to express himself higher up the pitch. He cannot do that when he is made to play deeper but the form of Lingard is keeping him from that more advanced position. People say Jose Mourinho does not develop young players but under his watch Lingard has been playing exceptionally well. Against Newcastle, Pogba wanted to show Mourinho that he could be a disciplined midfielder. But in that position Pogba looks anonymous. He does not look happy, does not flourish and there is no joy in his performance. He becomes just another player and we do not see the qualities that prompted United to buy him back for £89 million."
United's loss on Tyneside left them 16 points behind league-leaders Manchester City.