Paul Pogba scores twice on Solskjær’s Old Trafford return
French World Cup winner among the goals as caretaker manager continues bright start
Manchester United’s French midfielder Paul Pogba celebrates scoring against Huddersfield. Photograph: Getty Images
Manchester United 3 Huddersfield 1
Old Trafford, once again, feels like a contented place. Ole Gunnar Solskjær was wearing a sunrise of a smile. There was even an embrace from Fred the Red, United’s mascot, before he took his seat and he will have found it pleasing to see his team continue their immaculate start post-Mourinho. Not quite as much, perhaps, as the five-goal victory at Cardiff, but pleasing all the same.
Solskjær is certainly entitled to feel pleased with himself after two second-half goals from Paul Pogba, to add to the one scored by Nemanja Matic during the opening period, made it back-to-back victories and gave Old Trafford the chance to go through their old songbook paying homage to the man who has been given the manager’s job on a caretaker basis until the end of the season.
The volume certainly felt like it had been turned up a few notches since those difficult last few months under Mourinho when the friction behind the scenes inhibited the team’s performances and made the experience of visiting Old Trafford a strangely flat, almost joyless, experience.
Pogba, in particular, seems to be relishing the change of management. His goals were splendidly taken – a reminder, perhaps, why the club were much more concerned about letting him go, rather than the previous manager – and when he skimmed in a 25-yard shot to make it 3-0 all that was missing in his Cantona-esque goal celebration was the upturned collar.
At the same time it would be an exaggeration to say Solskjær has entirely transformed the team that are still 19 points off the top of the Premier League table. Not just yet, anyway. Huddersfield may not have won at Old Trafford since 1930 but they were difficult opponents for the opening hour and it was not until Pogba slotted in the second goal that the crowd could relax and start to serenade the man.
Three minutes earlier it had needed a brilliant piece of goalkeeping from David de Gea to prevent Laurent Depoitre equalising for the Premier League’s bottom club and that was arguably the key moment of the afternoon. De Gea showed in that moment why Solskjær had given him the captaincy but Huddersfield did eventually score, courtesy of Mathias Jorgensen’s 88th-minute header. It was only their 12th league goal all season and Huddersfield have now lost their last six Premier League games.
Yet David Wagner’s team chased everything, frequently looked bright in possession and will also reflect about the moment 10 minutes in when a long throw and a couple of flicked-on headers gave Terence Kongolo a golden chance to open the scoring. His shot flashed over the crossbar and, at this level, an away team cannot expect to get away with that kind of wastefulness.
Sure enough United took the lead in the 28th minute after Pogba’s free-kick had been deflected behind for a corner. Marcus Rashford’s delivery was whipped over from the left. Victor Lindelof was the first to attack the cross and, though Christopher Schindler cleared the initial effort off the line, the ball fell conveniently for Matic to apply the finishing touch from a couple of yards out.
Pogba’s first goal was the culmination of an incisive move along the right involving Rashford, Juan Mata and the substitute Ander Herrera, concluding with a crisp finish from 12 yards.
Huddersfield kept pressing but Pogba’s next goal was even better, as he beat Jonas Lössl from long distance with a beautifully taken shot in off the post. Jorgensen’s header, from a free-kick, left Solskjær staring back, arms folded, but United could be satisfied overall. Mourinho won six points in his last 45 days as manager – Solskjær has managed it in five. – Guardian