Manchester United see best and worst of Paul Pogba in draw vs. Wolves
MANCHESTER, England -- Three points from Old Trafford as Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League.
1. The best and worst of Pogba as United are held
Questions about Paul Pogba have never been about his talent, rather about whether he can do it week after week and whether the moments of brilliance are more frequent than those of frustration.
Against Wolves at Old Trafford on Saturday, he showcased the best of what he brings to this Manchester United team. Unfortunately for both him and Jose Mourinho, he followed it up with the worst.
After scoring twice against Young Boys in the Champions League on Wednesday night, it was the Frenchman's contribution that set Manchester United off against Wolves.
Like the game in Switzerland, United were forced to survive first before going ahead.
It was Pogba's quick feet and fine finish that opened the scoring at the Stade de Suisse. This time it was a wonderfully clever touch with a ball that was dropping out of the sky on the edge of the penalty area that gave Fred the chance to swivel and shoot past Rui Patricio from 20 yards.
It was the Brazilian's first United goal after his £47 million move from Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer, and he celebrated by stuffing the ball up his shirt as a tribute to his pregnant girlfriend.
There was also a short dance routine with Pogba in recognition of his role in the whole thing. But if that was a flash of his talent, it was not long after that he gave a glimpse into why Jose Mourinho, in particular, finds him so frustrating.
Shortly after half-time, he was guilty of over-playing in midfield and, after being robbed of the ball, Helder Costa attacked down the right before Raul Jimenez laid off for Joao Moutinho, once a United target, to smash his finish in the top corner.
Mourinho screamed at Pogba from the touchline, as much for his limp attempt to get back as for losing the ball.
It will worry Mourinho that, after the equaliser, Wolves looked more likely to hit United on the break and score a second. It will also be a concern that his star midfielder is still causing a conundrum.
2. Dalot has given Valencia questions to answer
Mourinho's decision to rest Diogo Dalot against Wolves was understandable. Despite an impressive debut in the Champions League, it would have been a lot to ask of a 19-year-old to expect him to do it again in the Premier League three days later. Antonio Valencia has been the first-choice right-back since Mourinho arrived and remains club captain.
Dalot will be back in the team against Derby County in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday, and another good performance will increase the pressure on Valencia.
The Ecuadorian was always going to be managed carefully this season, as a knee problem that has been an issue for nearly three years begins to take its toll. The 33-year-old will only play three games in a week when it is absolutely necessary, meaning Dalot should get plenty of opportunities.
Mourinho made it clear in his prematch news conference on Friday that the teenager is "here to play." There is a growing clamour for him to play instead of Valencia.
Where Dalot had been attacking and positive against Young Boys, Valencia looked limited against Wolves. The days when he raids up and down the right with power and pace are few and far between now. Too many crosses hit the first man. Too many times he looks to be playing catch-up when his team go forward.
He is a functioning full-back who deserves credit for learning the defensive side of a position that is not his first choice. Dalot, on the other hand, looks exciting. It may not be too long before Valencia is the one playing back-up.
3. Moutinho already adapted to the Premier League
Wolves have made some eye-catching signings on their way up from the Championship to the Premier League.
Rui Patricio, Raul Jimenez and Ruben Neves all fall into that category, but Joao Moutinho is about the best of the bunch. A summer signing from Monaco, he is making the transition to English football look easy.
The highlight of his performance at Old Trafford was his goal -- a wonderful finish into the top corner that gave David de Gea, who had already made two very good saves, no chance.
The 32-year-old is not known for his ability to score goals, and anything he can add in the opposition box is a bonus. What was most striking against United is his comfort on the ball. He is rarely in the wrong position, and it is not often a pass is wasted.
There is a recognition that Neves is more creative and that it is his job to give him the ball. It is perhaps to be expected from a midfielder who has made more than 100 appearances for Portugal, but there will have been few performances as quietly effective as this.