Whatever the future holds for Paul Pogba at Manchester United, the Frenchman continues to play a significant role for Jose Mourinho’s side.
With a green captain’s armband on his left bicep and pink boots on his feet, Pogba settled United’s nerves on an uncomfortable night and unfamiliar artificial surface in Bern to get their Group H campaign off to a winning start.
The 25-year-old midfield star scored twice in the space of nine minutes at the end of a difficult first half at the Stade de Suisse, and then set up a third for Anthony Martial to give United a victory that was a lot harder to come by than it might appear.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Young Boys (4-4-2): Von Ballmoos 5.5; Mbabu 7, Camara 6.5, Von Bergen 6, Benito 6.5; Fassnacht 7 (Ngamaleu 65, 6), Sanogo 6.5, Sow 6 (Aebischer 59, 6), Sulejmani 6.5; Assale 7, Hoarau 6.5 (Nsame 75, 6).
Subs not used: Wolfli, Bertone, Schick, Garcia.
Manchester United (4-3-3): De Gea 7; Dalot 6.5, Smalling 7, Lindelof 6.5, Shaw 7; Pogba 8 (Pereira 75, 6, Matic 6.5, Fred 6 (Fellaini 69, 6); Rashford 5.5 (Mata 69, 6), Lukaku 6, Martial 6.5.
Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Sanchez, Young.
Goals: Pogba 35 & 44
Referee: Deniz Aytekin (Germany), 7.
Pogba hasn’t always done enough to justify that £89million club record transfer fee and extravagant wages since returning to Old Trafford in 2016.
But, with or without the armband, he has adopted a more commanding role this season despite the ongoing uncertainty over his future.
Will he still be a United player if they reach the knockout stage? If Pogba has his way, he would probably move to Barcelona as early as January.
But, of course, it isn’t as simple as that. The Old Trafford hierarchy remain determined to keep hold of him and performances like this explain why, even if Mourinho’s lukewarm praise after this match again hinted at problems between the pair.
He was the difference between the prospect of a rather embarrassing defeat and what at first glance might look like a comfortable win against a Young Boys team playing at this stage for the first time.
With Juventus and Valencia the other opponents in the group, it was imperative that United didn’t lose here.