Whenever Manchester United play, talk about Paul Pogba, his performances and his future are often sure to follow.
Having spent most of the season on the treatment table, the midfielder made his long-awaited return to the Manchester United first-team following the Premier League’s three-month shutdown, and his performances have been immediately scrutinised.
The World Cup winner has shown flashes of his brilliant best since his return to action, winning a penalty soon after coming off the bench against Spurs, before registering an assist for Bruno Fernandes in the 3-0 win over Brighton.
Fernandes has taken the mantle of Manchester United’s creative heartbeat since his January transfer, his brace against the Seagulls taking his tally to six goals and four assists in just 13 appearances for the Red Devils.
Speaking following the victory at the Amex, former United defender Patrice Evra was full of praise for the Portuguese midfielder, being impressed with his immediate influence on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
“He wants the ball, he wants to play,” he told Sky Sports. “That’s what I love about his personality. He’s not scared. He wants to create chances, he wants to score goals. He’s such a positive player. For me, he made the difference.
“If United are, right now, in that position… they should say thanks to Fernandes. I respect all the players, they’re doing a great job. But I think he was a key factor. He was really important.
“And Ole compared him to (Paul) Scholes, and I always say when you compare Scholes to someone it’s a crime. But he’s got the things to ask for the ball, to create. He wants to play football, and he makes United play well.”
There was a lot of talk during football’s hiatus as to whether Pogba and Fernandes could effectively play together, though with Nemanja Matic alongside them in a more defensive midfield role, the pair have shown flashes of a blossoming partnership.
While Pogba has often been relied upon to be Manchester United’s driving force in the middle of the park since his return to the club in 2016, Evra feels that Fernandes’ arrival will take a bit of pressure off the France international, backing him to ‘play much better’ alongside the former Sporting Lisbon playmaker.
“I think Paul was waiting for a big player to come in,” Evra said. “We were putting too much pressure on Paul, and to be fair, you can see Paul is smiling because Fernandes will also have responsibility.
“I think Paul will play much better with Fernandes now.”