Pogba raises Man Utd ceiling, Bruno raises the floor

Date published: Sunday 15th August 2021 9:38 - Editor F365

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16 Man United conclusions
1. That was special, wasn’t it? A full Old Trafford, Introducing Varane, a 5-1 victory, eased in Sancho and a Pogba/Bruno Masterclass. If we are being pedantic, a clean sheet would have been nice but that was as close to perfection for United as it gets.

2. A real masterstroke to introduce Varane before the match, the sound was electric and it really primed the audience for the match. Expect an upturn in the home form now that Old Trafford has fans back!

3. Bruno Fernandes scored a hat trick but the only man you should talk about first is Paul Labile Pogba. You saw the worst and best of Pogba in 5 minutes as he let go of the opposition runner on his side as Leeds scored but then produced two sublime assists. That ball for Greenwood was exquisite. This is why no matter what the top clubs will always want a player capable of such uncommon feats with such regularity. Really should have been the man of the match over Bruno.

4. The commentator made a great point that Bruno raises the floor for each player. Pogba may raise the ceiling of his team mates but he will do little to raise their floor. Bruno simply improves everyone around him, he dictates, he tells players where to go, what to do – Scholes spoke about Keane being the manager on the pitch – Bruno is that person for this United team.

5. Greenwood is special. Ole’s man management of Mason has also been brilliant. He has been slowly integrated into the team, kept out of the limelight and his game has developed year on year. Greenwood not being in the England squad for the Euros also worked out for him, he got a rest and he did not have to deal with a nation’s expectations for a month. The reason Greenwood is a great finisher is because he seems to keep things really simple in his mind and credit to Ole for letting him play this way. We can see what pressure does to strikers like Werner, or even Torres at Chelsea.

6. A lot was said about United finishing 12 points off the top last season but we lost 10 points in the first 6 games. The preseason last season was a disaster, starting a week after every other team was fitter than them. It also resulted in an anomaly like the 6-1 defeat to Spurs and Ole did well to tighten up, prevent a downward spiral and raise moral after that.

7. I am not putting any money on United winning the league but I agree with Ole that the sky is the limit for this team. You never know, the team may hit form, other teams may have injuries, United have a better chance of winning the league this season than the last few years so I will choose to believe! If Leicester can win it with a functional team, all the clubs in the top 7-8 should be dreaming about it. I wouldn’t even berate Brentford for dreaming about it last night after going top!

8. Dan James is simply not a United player – he can work as a squad player but no team is winning the title with Dan James in their starting XI. Reading his story, you can not do anything but wish him well but I simply don’t see him ever regularly being of the quality United need. I’d argue even Jesse Lingard is a better player, maybe it is the extra pace Dan James offers that makes Ole pick him on the right.

9. Martial. The atmosphere in the dressing room should be nothing but positive but I would be having a sulk or too if I was Martial. If he cannot get into the side when Rashford and Cavani are out, and Sancho isn’t match fit to start, then it may be time to look for greener pastures elsewhere. There was a time Martial could have been anything he wanted to but he has simply not kicked on. We still speak of Martial as someone having the potential – he is 25, he is 3 years younger than Lukaku, the man he might potentially replace at Inter Milan. The time for ‘potential’ is over.

10. It also says a lot that Ole prefers playing a mid fielder on the left of the attack over Martial over thrived there a couple of seasons ago. United still have a conundrum over Pogba’s best position, Pogba’s best work in this match was from the middle of the park. He is not going to be making overlapping runs down the left or pinging crosses in from the byline but by moving in he leaves Shaw too much to do on the left. Leeds United punished them once on that flank but against better opposition this will be a problem.

11.  McFred works against most oppositions but if both of them could be fused to form a single player, United would fix their formation woes. United have done everything to make Pogba work except the most obvious solution – give him a proper defensive mid fielder who’d do the dirty work to play alongside him. Gary Neville argues a Harry Kane will make United title winners but maybe what they truly need is not a Kane but a Kante. Put Kante in this team and I think United wins the title.

12. Good on Fred to get a goal though! Keane can say whatever he wants about his quality but you can never question his effort on the pitch. I know Ole doesn’t get credit as a coach but Fred has definitely improved under Ole.

13. I am glad Sancho has come to United under Ole. United have had players like Depay, Di Maria and Sanchez come in through the door but their instincts were coached out of them by Van Gaal and Mourinho. Ole’s lack of tactical precision will benefit players like Sancho and Greenwood who seem to play on instinct – if players can simplify the game in their head then they will do better than players who are constantly overthinking everything. Shaw’s form suffered under Mourinho because Mourinho lived in his mind and he was questioning all his instincts. Shaw is another player who has thrived under Ole.

14. Lindelof is not as bad as some people think he is. He will be an able back up to Maguire and Varane. The United defence did not look watertight and Leeds United were afforded chances. They did not also visibly play higher up the pitch compared to last season. I expect Ole to slowly bed Varane into this team and slowly move the back line higher. You are now definitely seeing progress – next year with a genuine number 6 and maybe a new number 9 (Haaland?) this team only gets better.

15. De Gea will benefit from Varane too. De Gea can pull off stellar saves but his positioning can be questioned and he doesn’t command the defensive line. With Maguire and Varane in the middle, they can take care of managing the defence and De Gea can simply do his job. Without Varane, Henderson may be a better option but a firm decision of De Gea being the number 1 will only benefit United and their stability.

16. As fun as the Euros was, this is what it is all about…. Football is back!
– Shehzad Ghias, MUFC, Karachi 

READ MORE: Ayling attack sparks Pogba and Fernandes into glorious life


Pogba POTS
Pogba last season 3 assists in 26 Premier League appearances, Pogba this season 4 assists in 1 Premier League game. Its almost like his contract is ending and he needs to convince clubs with eyes elsewhere (Haaland/Mbappe) that he’s worth the exorbitant wages he is going to ask for.
Knee-Jerk… Pogba for POTS before leaving on a free.
ThaiWolf, Hong Kong


United feel different
Let’s get this straight first. It was not “just” Leeds. It was Leeds! Going into this game, the general feeling among United fans were excitement mixed with fear. Because we have seen what Leeds did last year during their opening fixture and because we had a less than ideal pre season (did any big team have an ideal pre season?). But this feels different, not because we thrashed a team on the opening day (we did that in Moyes’ first match, Ole’s first match and even in the first match of Ole’s first full season), but because this was a complete performance by the team. For the longest of times, I have seen parts of this team playing well while carrying at least one or two players. But last night was different. Not one player played badly. James and Wan Bissaka were the two “poorest” players but they too played at almost their maximum level. Greenwood seems to be learning the no. 9 position and seems to be much more confident than last season. The much derided McFred controlled the midfield well, with both of them taking turns bombing forward. Lindelof seems to be trying to do to Varane what Shaw did to Telles 😂 So many brilliant performances in just one game is rare for us. That’s why it felt different.

I know a lot of fans are already  thinking about the title (who can blame us with the amount we spent), but let’s see if United can pull off such performance throughout the season. Only then, will it be truly different!

Off topic, I want to just say that this has been a tough year for me personally, but things are looking up recently and to see my team doing well is really the best feeling in the world.

(From what I saw of Chelsea, they too have similar reasons to be giddy)
FerventFootballer MUFC 


United one player short
United have signed Sancho and Varane but the question everyone is asking is “is that enough to mount a serious EPL title challenge? My answer is no. As far as United are concerned, a clinical finisher is a “sine qua non” for the title challenge.  If we look back at the glorious days of Sir Alex (especially when we won the treble in 1999), we had 4 excellent strikers including OGS, Cole and Yorke. Thus the need for a clinical finisher at United cannot be overemphasised PERIOD

Professor (Dr) David Achanfuo Yeboah


United two players short
I wanted to get in my final thoughts before United kicks off the new season. Too many points to write them coherently and respond to all the noise about our signings, many keeping their hopes realistic, many Pogba debates, so here are my bullets that I wanted to get them out before we kick off the new campaign:

– I don’t expect us to win the league as we are still 2 players short of really going after City and other main contenders
– Ole has only made 2 mistakes in player recruitment/contract extension since he became the manager
– Giving that 3 yr extension to Matic at the young age of 30, his legs were gone a year prior, why we needed to give him 3 is beyond me
– Letting this whole Pogba mess continue for so long
– Onto that 2nd point, I would like to elaborate the rest of this email, and I know hindsight is a great thing but even back when United were zeroing on Grealish (assuming Villa get relegated), we could’ve gone for him and paid that 80 mil with a Pogba sale
– By dragging this for another year and Messi signing for PSG, United are on his and his agent Mino’s mercy
– One thing we all know by now, Mino will get his due every few seasons from his star players and I dont see how United can convince Pogba to extend when he knows he can go join the Qatar Saint Germain star lineup for FREE.
– With most probably CR7 heading there, the attraction for a free agent who thinks he belongs with those superstars anyway will be impossible to resist
– Enough has been written about how Pogba and how he was to be the main man but turns out he performs when someone else can take up the main responsibility, e.g., Bruno’s arrival.
– I’ve always felt he’s more like Di Maria, good player but can only perform when paired with other good players. Players like CR7, Messi, Lewa, Benzema are what he thinks he is but unfortunately is not.
– Anyway we missed on Grealish and now we have another year of drama about will he/won’t he and most probably just lose him for free, for the 2nd time!
– And for some unfortunate reason he decides to extend then United will spend the rest of his time  trying to accommodate him in the team by playing him wide positions or in midfield with a potential to lose the midfield battle

Well the drama, the uncertainty and not being able to replace him with 2 good midfielders to add to our midfield core will cost us.

Still hope Ole gets to rectify/manage this mistake and try to give a good fight. Till then….
AVM Phoenix (PSG hope you spend some more and take Pogba this window)


Salah the five season wonder
Lots of shouts last week about how our squad lacks depth. It might only be Norwich but we beat them comfortably without 4 or possibly 5 of our first choice eleven depending on how you feel about Firmino.

The control of the game was the most impressive aspect of the day. They didn’t get near to threatening our goal until they had 3 chances in 5 seconds when it was already game over. Credit to Tsimikas for deciding to take his first opportunity brilliantly and also to Milner for covering Trent multiple times and allowing the team to press forward.

Salah just doesn’t change. He’s quickly turning into a 5 season wonder. He was trying a bit too hard to get get a hat trick of assists which meant he didn’t score another when he probably should have. Mané also looked really bright today and i’m hopeful the summer break did him good.

Harvey Elliott’s cameo was also a bit sexy.
Minty, LFC

Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk


Jurgen’s brave face
We were really good, Virgil coming back obviously makes us so much more confident and solid and Mo looked in really good nick. But there’s no particular surprises in that and with all due respect, there’s greater challenges than Norwich out there.

It’s a great start and that’s smashing. But Chelsea had one too, so did United and it’ll be amazing if City don’t.

We still need strengthening, it’s the lack of depth that hurts us compared to City. Though it does look like Kane is going nowhere and that won’t hurt us one bit. At some point I might understand why they signed Grealish when they didn’t obviously need him. Rather than really putting their funds into a very serious offer for Harry , who they most definitely do need. Paying for potential in a position they already had more than covered rather than the finished product in a position they didn’t have covered? That’s a bit beyond me.

I think Jurgen is putting a brave face on a comparative lack of funds. Which is great, so much better than listening to managers whining about having no money. And it’s perhaps a bigger positive than it looks because I felt Jurgen had gotten into a fairly negative mind space last year. Some of the excuses were ridiculous and he came across quite badly in parts. Which really isn’t him, he’s an extremely positive, inspirational figure normally.

Having won the Champions League and the Premiership I wasn’t expecting it at all, I thought he’d be under less pressure if anything. But perhaps he prefers being an underdog and doesn’t wear the mantle of favourites very comfortably. He certainly seems a lot more *himself* now.

And if he is back to his best that’s very close to the cliched ‘ it’s like having a new signing ‘ to me.
James, Liverpool 

READ MORE: Liverpool tactic obscures a machine whirring in background


I think I am seriously reaching peak #WengerIn after watching that. So bad. And not surprising which is the sad part.


Arsenal positivity
The one sliver of positivity to come from Arsenal’s defeat last night is how bent out of shape fans of other clubs are getting about it.  If we are so crap and ‘no longer a top six team’ (which I agree with by the way), then why so much schadenfreude over our defeat?  Surely it can no longer be that big of a deal if we are just a mid table team?  Nor even that much of a surprise?

And, oh by the way……. Do you think those will be the only points Brentford will get all season?   What goes around, comes around…….  Jamie Carragher, I’m looking at you kid.
Ally, London.


Look at the table! We were bottom on Friday night, but, by Saturday night we were out of the relegation zone and in 17th place.

If that’s not progress then I don’t know what is.

At this rate, we’ll have won the league by Christmas.
Stu (it’s all part of the plan). An optimistic Gunner in France.


16 Brentford conclusions
Because who has time for 16 unless you’re being paid?!

1. Man that felt good!  A combination of new stadium, 18 months without going to a game and, (still almost surrealy) Premier League football.  What a time to a Bees fan.

2. We have nothing to fear this season.  Whilst we didn’t outplay Arsenal by any stretch, we fully deserved the 3 points.  Make no mistake, these lads are good enough for this level.

3. Nobody will enjoy facing Ivan Toney.   It may not have been his best game in a Bees shirt, but he showed what he’s all about.  A significant physical presence making life very uncomfortable for central defenders.  I’m sure Ben White has a few bruises this morning, and not just to his ego.  He isn’t all about scoring goals, he helps the team in so many ways.

4. Which leads me onto Bryan Mbeumo.  The switch to a 5-3-2 (or 3-5-2) has really suited him.  At times last season he was a little isolated playing on the right of a front 3, being given the ball and expected to make something from nothing.  Playing more centrally, closer to Toney and with a licence to roam is the perfect role for him, as he has more opportunity to use his pace and make runs in behind.  In some ways a throw back to the little ‘n’ large front 2 of the 90s, but right now it’s working!

5. The new stadium really is class!  I’m afraid Griffin Park had simply had its day.  Charming, yes, but the facilities were rotten.  This actually felt like going to a top level football match and I couldn’t have been more proud.  The timing of the move coinciding with our debut PL season was perfect.

6. David Raya could be one of the ‘keepers of the season.  Sorry if that sounds a bit hyperbolic after 1 match, but he is a seriously good goalkeeper.  Confident with the ball at his feet and an expert shot-stopper.  The save to keep out Pepe towards the end was top drawer.

7. Leno’s struggles at the other end only served to highlight Raya’s strengths.  Indecisive dealing with balls into the box, and several times put his defenders in trouble with dangerous passes out from the back.  Early season rusty-ness perhaps, but he needs not to be a weak link for an already sub-par Arsenal team.

8. I’m expecting a few games this season where the opposition team sheet alone will give them a headstart.  Arsenal’s starting XI contained literally nobody to be scared of.  In fact, it almost felt like one of those early round League Cup ties where they’ve rested half of their 1st team.  Obviously Lacazette and Auba were hugely missed, but it’s hard to see this team competing for the top 6 this season.

9. Smith Rowe was the most talented player on the pitch.  Arsenal need to build a side around him and give him a chance to flourish.  He is their future, they need to nurture it.

10. I was sat quite close to the Arsenal fans and I have to feel sorry for them a bit.  3,000 of their most loyal crammed into a corner of the stadium, singing loudly and passionately pre-game no doubt with some excitement and optimism, only to be let down yet again.  This could be another long and frustrating season for them.
Rob, Surrey (Bees fan)


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