Fresh from his domestic double at the weekend, Paul Pogba looked to make his mark in the Champions League as Manchester United welcomed Paris St Germain to Old Trafford.
The Frenchman took his haul under United interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to eight goals in 10 games to help the Red Devils move into the Premier League top-four courtesy of a 3-0 win at Fulham on Saturday.
PSG proved a step up in quality on Tuesday night though and here, Football Paradise assesses Pogba’s contribution in the first leg of this blockbuster last-16 encounter.
Pogba has been given license to operate just behind the front three under Solskjaer, ostensibly from the left-hand side of a midfield that also contained Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic on Tuesday night. The injuries to Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard towards the end of the first half necessitated a change in formation after the interval, with Pogba drifting further forward and into a central position, alongside substitutes Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata in playing just behind frontman Marcus Rashford.
The 25-year-old has enjoyed a renaissance since Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho in mid-December but this was an acid test and arguably his biggest fixture in a United shirt since rejoining the club two-and-a-half years ago. He showed no lack of desire in getting to the ball but it was noticeable that he was often being shadowed by Marquinhos whenever United were in possession, a clear sign of PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel attempting to shackle the World Cup winner.
Marquinhos carried out the unenviable task of man-marking the energetic Pogba almost to perfection. The United man did manage to get away from the Brazilian midway through the first half and impressively breezed past PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe on the right touchline – but his cross was too near to veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. There were a couple of clever lay-offs that could have led to something more as the fixture wore on but Marquinhos’ presence meant Pogba was regularly starved of the space in which he regularly thrives.
Pogba would have wanted to transfer his recent domestic brilliance on to the European stage but he was kept largely on the periphery as PSG’s class told in the end. The French heavyweights claimed a 2-0 win that leaves them in the driving seat heading to the second leg. To compound matters, Pogba was given his marching orders in the penultimate minute – handed his second yellow card of the night for a high challenge on Dani Alves, meaning he will miss the return leg at the Parc des Princes on March 6.
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