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Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has backed his team-mates to overcome Manchester City in Sunday’s derby and believes the league leaders can still be caught.
City head to Old Trafford having put together the best-ever start to a Premier League season by any team and lead their local rivals by eight points. The contest is being billed as the biggest game of the 2017-18 term so far.
Pogba will not be involved, as he’ll serve a suspension following his red card against Arsenal on Saturday. But the Frenchman believes United still have enough, per Rob Dawson of ESPN FC.
“I have complete trust in the team,” he said. “Even if I am not there, I will be there watching the game giving positive energy and hopefully we are going to win.”
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Pogba admitted he is “disappointed” to be sitting out the fixture at what is an “important moment” in the campaign. Even so, the former Juventus man believes Pep Guardiola’s side can be reeled in, despite what has been an almost peerless beginning to the campaign.
“We are still eight points [behind] so with eight points we cannot win the league,” said the 24-year-old. “We are still behind. But if I don’t believe [we could catch City] I stop playing football now.”
Pogba has returned to the United team in recent weeks and made a massive difference to the way the side operates. Broadcaster Pilib De Brun believes City will be delighted he’s not involved:
Pilib De Brún @Malachians
Pogba is by far and away Utd’s best player, they are a completely different team without him. Guardiola will be ecstatic he’s out.
While United boast other capable midfield men in the form of Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini, none bring as much to the table as Pogba.
Eyebrows were raised when the Red Devils parted with a world-record sum to sign him in the summer of 2016, but at this point he’s among the finest midfielders in the game. Pogba can tackle, dance past opponents and is productive in the final third in terms of goals and assists.
In recent weeks, there have been signs of Pogba really settling into life at Old Trafford, and his team-mates are reaping the benefits, as noted by OptaJoe:
6 – Paul Pogba has provided six assists in his 12 games in all competitions for Man Utd this season, as many as he did in his 51 games for them last term. Selfless. https://t.co/V4yloNJoJD
There may not be anything Pogba can do to help United in the coming contests as he serves his three-game suspension, but if United are able to stop City on Sunday, he would have a huge role to play in the Red Devils’ efforts to reel in their rivals.
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While United have received some criticism at times this term, Jose Mourinho’s side have been scoring goals consistently, defending well and in David De Gea boast the best goalkeeper in the world in the eyes of many. Should City slip up, everything is in place for them to capitalise.
But with 13 wins in a row, finding a way to disrupt City’s stunning attacking patterns has proved to be too much for so many Premier League sides already. If United had Pogba at the hub of the XI for this encounter, the Red Devils’ chances of doing so would’ve been significantly improved.