Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised Paul Pogba after the midfielder helped overcome Aston Villa – a result that moves Manchester United level on points with Liverpool at the top of the table.
United started 2021 as they ended the previous year – with a hard-fought home victory – as they defeated Villa 2-1 at Old Trafford, in the process extending their unbeaten run in the Premier League to 10 games.
Marcus Rashford had struck in added time to see off Wolves on December 29, and while they did not leave it so late this time, the Red Devils were still made to work hard.
Solskjaer felt Pogba’s ability on the ball helped repel a physical Villa team, the France international impressing again in the United midfield as he continues to improve after recovering from coronavirus.
“He’s getting better and better, fitter and fitter. I think he played well today,” Solskjaer said to Sky Sports about Pogba, who attempted more passes and more passes in the opposing team’s half than any other home player.
“They are a physical side, there were loads of challenges, one against one situations. Paul’s one of these boys that can hold players off, get hold of it for us.
“But, not just Paul, we were too keen to play the killer pass. We knew they were going to drop off, then there are other spaces in behind we should have used.”
Pogba had the most number of touches for United (69), while also winning 52.6 per cent of his 19 total duels.
The 27-year-old – whose long-term future at the club remains unclear – was fouled twice during the game, one of those occasions leading to the penalty that Bruno Fernandes converted in the second half, seeing the hosts reclaim the lead.
9 – Since the start of February 2020, Bruno Fernandes has scored nine penalties in the Premier League – two more than any other player. Formality. pic.twitter.com/FF2pkA3iji
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 1, 2021
Anthony Martial had put them ahead earlier in the contest, scoring just his second league goal of a campaign disrupted by both injuries and a three-game suspension.
Solskjaer hopes the French forward – who has now scored on all seven days of the week in the Premier League – can build on his performance.
“He’s had chances all season, maybe his confidence has had a bit of a knock earlier with the sending off, and some niggles he’s had.
“Now he’s firing, getting better and better.”
United are back in action on Wednesday, hosting neighbours Manchester City in the last four of the EFL Cup.
They are next on duty in the league on January 12, travelling to take on Burnley five days before a huge trip to defending champions Liverpool.