Paul Pogba “is happy now” after returning to goalscoring form for Manchester United, says interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The midfielder – who had a fractured relationship with previous boss Jose Mourinho – scored twice in Wednesday’s 3-1 home win over Huddersfield.
That followed two assists in a 5-1 win at Cardiff in Solskjaer’s first game.
“I was very pleased for him and the whole team. He loves football and has a big smile,” said the new manager.
Pogba has been involved in four goals in two games under Solskjaer – the same amount as in his final 12 Premier League games under Mourinho before his sacking. The World Cup winner only played 15 minutes in the Portuguese’s final three games in charge.
Former United reserve team manager Solskjaer worked with Pogba during the Frenchman’s first spell at Old Trafford.
“That’s the Paul I have known since he was in the reserves and youth team,” said the United legend.
“He’s always been a happy boy, a big smile on his face and when you score two you’re happy. It’s a response and Paul loves playing for this club. He’s a Manchester United boy through and through and knows what it means to play for the club.”
Norwegian Solskjaer played for United for most of his career, from 1996 to 2007, and has returned from Molde to manage the side until the end of the season.
“It’s humbling knowing I’m leading this team out,” he told BBC Sport after his home debut in charge.
“Let’s see if I get used to it. I captained a couple of games but this was very different. They are the best fans in the world. I had such a great relationship with them.
“It was special hearing the crowd singing my song. It makes you really proud – and my family – and it’s a day I’ll never forget.
“I was surprisingly calm all day. The lads have helped me settle in really quickly.”
Solskjaer says he has changed the mentality of United’s players. A style perceived as negative under Mourinho had been heavily criticised.
“You don’t change anything in one week but the mindset,” said Solskjaer.
“I want my team to play in a certain way and you give them little pointers and it’s a work in progress. It’s going to take time and I’ve done a little bit of a tweak but it will improve as time goes on.”
Forwards Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial could all return for Sunday’s game against Bournemouth.
Lukaku has been on compassionate leave, Martial was ill for the Terriers game and Sanchez has missed six matches with a hamstring problem.
“It’s not a bad front three to come in and knock on the door,” said Solskjaer. “It will be great to get them back. Maybe we’ll change the front three.
“Alexis has had two days of good fitness work. He is touch and go for Bournemouth, but will definitely be involved at Newcastle [next Wednesday].”
‘It looked like the shackles were off’
Former United defender Phil Neville, speaking on Match of the Day, said: “They had the best player on the pitch in Paul Pogba and, on his day, he is the best midfielder in Europe.
“He has had a really disappointing, horrendous last 18 months at the club because of the fallout with the manager, but it looked like the shackles were off.
“He played with that ‘anything is possible’ type of attitude, playing with arrogance, the passing was back to his best.
“He is the best player in the club, for me, and should be a 12-15 goal a season person – he has not been that in his career so far, but he can be.
“I think they would’ve lost him (in January), the relationship (with Mourinho) was gone. He was sat on the bench, but in the last couple of games he has played fantastically.”
Neville also said Mourinho did not understand the “culture” of Manchester United.
“United is all about the identity – the young kids coming through – and at the end of the game it was Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Angel Gomes that were the front four,” added Neville.
“That is Manchester United and the culture and someone like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows what the club is about.
“In the last six months the culture was being lost and beginning to get damaged. No kids were getting through, the enjoyment had gone from the games and the manager and the minute they lacked goals, the change had to come.
“When you play for Manchester United you talk about freedom of expression, going out there and playing with a smile on your face and it starts with the manager. Ole has been really happy and saying the right things.”
Source BBC News