Watching Pogba at United used to be so frustrating. Two defensive coaches(Mourinho/Solskjær) failed to fit a pure finesse player in their system. Lately, it’s just been sad as United have kick-started a new club plan centred around all their explosive, young forwards while the 28 Y/O Pogba still struggles to truly find his place in the team. It’s been years of asking “where exactly should Pogba play?”
What does Sergej Milinković-Savić have to do with anything? I believe Savić is playing the perfect role for Paul Pogba. A role very similar to the one Juventus deployed him in. Many wonder why the brilliant and obviously gifted Savić never got that big move, why? Savić like Pogba has no real position and that scares big teams off as players like this are seen as luxury players. Lazio unlike United has found a way to make use of Savić versatile skillset in a way that makes both player and club happy. Savić occupies a free role and is allowed to make mistakes while trying to force the magic to happen.
Lazio gives Savić this freedom by taking as much off his plate as possible in Midfield. Either Danilo Cataldi or Former Liverpool starter Lucas Levia sits as Savić pushes forward, Lazio also plays Luis Alberto to ease the creation and tempo dictating burden on Savić. All this support allows Savić to play the carefree way that shows how gifted he is.
Looking at the above chart you can see Savić is actually not that productive, he is also just okay on defence, he can’t regista and is not dynamic. Despite all these weaknesses, Savić is started religiously in midfield, why? The #10 position is culture in Italy(see; Maradona). In their defensive golden age they grew to appreciate players who broke down elite defenders using pure skill(Zidane/Baggio/Maradona). In Italy players like Savić and Pogba will always have roles to play.
All of this is great for Lazio who are not even a UCL mainstay in Serie A but for United, why should they dedicate so much to building around a single talent. It’s a decision in the past they were all in on but the club has moved out of that era and that leaves Pogba in a very difficult spot.
Why can’t United just replicate Lazio/Juventus? they tried, it was just done terribly under defensive coaches, then it failed and now Manchester United are moving on to a new project. It’s clear to everyone who follows the sport that United are more concerned about building around the emerging Rashford – Greenwood – Sancho core than anything to do with Pogba.
Pogba- In United’s Midfield
United’s midfield disaster covers all 3 key positions;
6 – Nemanja Matić (perfect 6 but sadly washed), Scott McTominay( a bad 8 hiding as a 6)
8/Regista -Fred (can’t regista, major flaw), Pogba himself(can’t regista, major flaw), Juan Mata(can regista, sadly washed physically)
10/CAM/Fantasista – Pogba himself(best position for him), Bruno(another free spirit) and Van De Beek(an actual 10/ doesn’t play)
Pogba can’t play 8 as he doesn’t tempo dictate entire games added to the fact he always wants to bomb forward when the opportunity is there. An 8/regista is supposed to be like Pirlo/Scholes just retaining the ball and circulating it well, players of this profile are usually next to Pogba’s/Savic’s types and allow them to bomb forward carefree. Pogba’s best games happened at Juventus as Pirlo/ Marchisio quietly controlled proceedings, Vidal destroyed the opposition and Pogba had the complete freedom to be the box to box finesse genius that he is. United over years have never truly replicated this blueprint(failing massively at Regista).
As the winter window approaches both these positionless wonders couldn’t be in more opposite spots. Savić is on the right team, who have built around him the right way and is currently having another career year. Pogba is on the bench because United just don’t know what to do with him.