Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has defended Paul Pogba’s recent form, reminding his critics that the Frenchman has had to contend with injuries and coronavirus in recent months.
United have endured a particularly unimpressive start to the 2020-21 Premier League season, accumulating just seven points from six matches.
They have been especially poor at home domestically, losing to Crystal Palace, Tottenham and most recently Arsenal, while Chelsea held them to a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford.
It’s the first time since 1972-73 that United have failed to win any of their opening four top-flight home games, the 1-0 loss on Sunday ending a 14-year unbeaten run over Arsenal in Manchester.
Pogba accepted responsibility for that defeat after he clumsily tripped Hector Bellerin in the box as the Spaniard actually headed away from goal.
The criticism of United has been unrelenting since, but the scrutiny of Pogba goes back further having arguably failed to enjoy a single standout match this term. Solskjaer, however, has sympathy with the midfielder.
“Paul knows with that exact incident he could have done better,” Solskjaer said ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Istanbul Basaksehir. “He’s held his hand up. That’s how football is – it’s high intensity, high tempo.
“Every player is frustrated, himself too, after a defeat. We need consistency from every one of our players.
“Paul has been going through a difficult period with injury last season, with coronavirus this season, so I think we have seen plenty of positives recently and hopefully it will continue.”
Former United captain Roy Keane was one of the club’s most vocal critics at the weekend in his role as a television pundit, slamming the team for a perceived lack of character and leaders.
Current skipper Harry Maguire was one of those in the firing line but insists the players take no notice.
“I haven’t seen his comments but we don’t bring the negativity into the place, we stay positive and I can for sure say that there’s a lot of leaders in this squad, staff and players,” he said.
Solskjaer, a former colleague of Keane, added: “Well, Roy has always been outspoken. I’m very glad with the players I have here.
“We have different jobs, his is to give his opinion. I always listen to Roy, but we move on with a strong group of players and I’m sure we’ll improve.”
United head to Istanbul having taken a maximum six points from their first two Group H matches with commendable wins over Paris Saint-Germain – 2-1 in France – and last week’s brilliant 5-0 demolition of RB Leipzig.
Basaksehir have lost both matches in their European campaign and their Turkish title defence is not going to plan either; they sit seventh after seven games, though have won each of their previous three league matches.