Nemanja Matic believes Paul Pogba can be a game-changer for Manchester United if the midfielder keeps improving and understanding his importance to the team.
The 25-year-old has rarely been far from the headlines in recent months, with his happiness at Old Trafford and relationship with Jose Mourinho under scrutiny during a start to the season as unsettling as it was disappointing.
Reports that Pogba could leave in January highlighted the issues at hand, which were underlined when the World Cup winner dropped to the bench for what proved the last three Premier League matches overseen by Mourinho.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the France midfielder’s former reserve team boss at United, was brought in appointed as caretaker manager for the rest of the season and quickly put him back in the side to great effect.
Pogba was heavily involved in the 5-1 defeat of Cardiff before hitting a brace in the 3-1 Boxing Day win against Huddersfield, leaving team-mate Matic hopeful that this is just the start.
“As I’ve said in previous interviews about him when they asked me about him, he’s very important for us,” the defensive midfielder said.
“When he plays at his best, he can make the difference in every game.
“But he played also very well (against Huddersfield), but I think that he can do even more.
“I think (he can do better), but slowly, game by game… (it was) very important for him to score some goals.
“The confidence for the next one is going to be bigger and he needs to know that he still can improve.
“He needs to know that he’s very important for this team.
“As I said, his quality can make the difference every game and, yeah, I hope that he will continue like this.”
Matic and Pogba have dovetailed well since Solskjaer’s arrival, linking up in the way many hoped the pair would after the Serbian’s arrival from Chelsea in 2017.
“We had great games,” Matic said. “Also last season, we know that we finished second, it’s not perfect, but we had good games. I know that he can play well.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s with me, Ander (Herrera), Fred in the middle, or (Marouane) Fellaini.
“I think that if we give our best, everyone on the pitch, then his quality of my quality, or Marcus Rashford’s, Jesse Lingard’s quality can make the difference.
“But if we are not giving everything that we can, then one player cannot change anything.”
United will be hoping to make their collective quality felt again on Sunday, when Bournemouth arrive at Old Trafford – a ground Solskjaer returned to as the club’s manager for the first time on Boxing Day.
Matic was pleased to see the caretaker boss get such a warm reception and has been impressed by what he has seen from the Norwegian, who is assured of a place in club folklore after sealing the treble in 1999.
“Of course, he’s a legend in this club,” Matic said. “He made a lot, he scored many goals for this club and of course they will never forget him.
“But now it’s a new page for him.
“As a manager, he needs to show again because in football every day is a new challenge.
“But I am sure that he will do again great things.
“He is a great person, a good manager (from) what we saw in this few days and I wish him all the best.
“I think that he deserves all good things.”
Sunday’s match against Bournemouth looks like a good chance for Solskjaer to collect a third straight win, although his high-energy football may well make life tough at this frantic time of the year.
Furthermore, Mourinho questioned the intensity his players could play at after losing his final match at Liverpool.
“The next game is a new challenge,” Matic added.
“We have to do more. We have to do everything to win because this is the way to make (improvements).”