When people struggle to recall Paul Pogba’s match-winning performances in a Manchester United shirt in the interminable debate over his Old Trafford career, they should try and remember this one. It may not prove to be consequential when all is said and done come May but for now at least, and for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, it has put United top of the Premier League.
Not since December 2012 and Ferguson’s final title-winning campaign have United led after 17 games. They are unbeaten in the last 11 of them, winning nine. It will now be even harder for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to argue against the claim that his side are mounting a serious title challenge and that he is, in one respect, succeeding where David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho failed.
It represents a remarkable turnaround from a team that started the season so poorly. But United also started the season late and this trip to Burnley – initially scheduled for the opening weekend – was always their game in hand. It was billed as a chance to catch up. But four months after it was originally due to be played, rather than merely making up lost ground, they moved three points clear at the summit, jumping above reigning champions Liverpool.
They have Pogba to thank for that. A spectacular volley midway through the second half crowned a commanding midfield performance from United’s record signing and ultimately proved the difference, earning his side a deserved three points. Sean Dyche’s side made this difficult for them and, despite this being a chilly night in east Lancashire, temperatures rose out on the pitch at times. This was the type of physical and sometimes ugly that can be the undoing of title contenders. Not this time.
Attentions now turn to Sunday and Anfield, where Solskjaer’s side will face the side they have just deposed at the top of the table. That will be a true test of their credentials. It is perhaps the biggest game of Solskjaer’s two-year tenure yet. But it will also be an opportunity to move six points clear and really start to believe.
Source: The Independent