THERE is no such thing as a one-man team but Paul Pogba’s return from injury is massive for Manchester United.
If you pay £89million for a player, you expect them to do great things.
When he is fit and firing, he takes United to another level.
In United’s best XI, Nemanja Matic sits deep and protects the back four, allowing one of the full-backs to push on.
And Romelu Lukaku is up front, stretching the game by playing on the shoulder of the centre-halves.
This creates oceans of space in the middle of the park, which Pogba loves because he eats up the ground so quickly.
He moves like a Rolls-Royce so you don’t realise how quickly he is travelling.
He almost glides — and it means he can boss that area.
When Pogba is not fit, United turn to Marouane Fellaini or Ander Herrera.
And while they are fine footballers, they don’t cover the ground like Pogba — they don’t fill that gap.
This forces Lukaku to drop deeper in search of the ball and that is not his strength. He is way more dangerous trying to get in behind defenders, not cluttering up the midfield.
This season Fellaini has played 363 minutes, Pogba 430 and Herrera 498.
In that time, Pogba has had nine shots from outside the box, Herrera four and Fellaini none.
This is because Lukaku stretches play with Pogba in the side, creating space for the Frenchman to have a pop.
And Pogba gets so high up the park — and beyond opposition midfields — that he effects the other team.
He shoots well from distance, so that forces centre-backs to close him down when he’s on the ball.
That can leave the other centre-back one-on-one with Lukaku. Cue panic and the full-back might move into the middle.
Again there is a knock-on effect: the winger has space to put crosses in. Pogba disjoints the opposition.
Look at these passing stats: Pogba has played 32 passes into Lukaku this season. Fellaini has made just 15 and Herrera 16.
And Lukuka has passed to Fellaini once all season, to Herrera nine times and Pogba 15 times.
That proves the link-up play with the striker is superior with the Frenchman in the team.
Also, look at the goals. Lukaku has netted eight times in the league this campaign.
He has scored five of them in the five games Pogba has also played in.
In the seven games Pogba missed through injury, Lukaku notched just three times.
All-action midfielder Pogba ties it all together for United.
He is that missing link — and boss Jose Mourinho will be delighted to have him back.