Exactly 1616 days after his last game for Manchester United, Paul Pogba made his second debut for the Old Trafford side following his €105 million move from Juventus as Jose Mourinho’s men beat Southampton 2-0 in their second Premier League game of 2016-17.
Mourinho suggested ahead of the game that the 23-year-old was unlikely to feature for the full 90 minutes, but the France international nonetheless remained on the pitch right until the final whistle as he impressed in midfield.
It was Zlatan Ibrahimovic who was the centre of attention after the final whistle following his decisive double, but Pogba had every reason to be satisfied with his homecoming.
The midfielder received a warm welcome on his comeback, but his nerves still got the best of him early on as he lost possession on his first touch of the ball to set Southampton on their way. It proved to be a rare incident, though, as the ex-Juventus star quickly grew into the game and made an immediate impact.
1616 – Paul Pogba will make his first Premier League appearance for @ManUtd since 18th March 2012, 1616 days ago. Return.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 19, 2016
Pogba had his first shot on target after 13 minutes, an attempt from the corner of the penalty area into the arms of Fraser Forster, before creating a chance for Ibrahimovic at the half-hour mark with a chipped pass that was headed on by Juan Mata.
He continued to be heavily involved as he made a number of good runs from midfield, going on 12 dribbles throughout the match, and could perhaps have scored when he headed over the bar following a nice cross from Mata, trying his luck a few more times in the remainder of the game as well as he went in search of his debut goal.
Most touches, duels, interceptions, shots
There would not be a goal in the end, but Mourinho will have been pleased with what he saw as Pogba stood out in a number of areas.
He had 103 touches of the ball, more than any other United player, with Antonio Valencia coming second with 74.
The Frenchman also had the most duels of all United players, going into a challenge on 20 occasions.
To highlight his versatiliy, he also excelled when it came to interceptions, winning possession 13 times. Going forward, meanwhile, he had four shots, one more than Ibrahimovic.
Yet it was not all positive for the dynamic midfielder. He might have made more passes than anyone, but his passing accuracy of 83.1 per cent was nowhere near that of United’s top performers, with only Rooney, Mata, Ibrahimovic and David de Gea boasting a lower percentage.
Additionally, he made the most interceptions, but also lost the ball 22 times, more often than any one else in a United jersey.
But all in all, Pogba enjoyed a hugely encouraging start to the second part of his United career, with the midfielder only bound to get better once his fitness further improves and he gets used to his new team-mates.