Manchester United‘s win over Arsenal was tainted by the loss of Pogba after he was dismissed late on for an apparent stamp on Hector Bellerin. United saw out the remainder of the game with 10 men but now must face league leaders Manchester City next weekend without the Frenchman.
And Neville believes Pogba’s absence against one of the best midfields in the game poses something of a tactical conundrum for Mourinho.
Arsenal vs Manchester United: Player ratings
“I was excited by what I was watching in the first 20 minutes against Arsenal, the counter-attacking was fantastic,” he said on his podcast. “(Jesse) Lingard, (Anthony) Martial and (Romelu) Lukaku were brilliant, and you could see a little bit how (Nicolas) Otamendi or (Vincent) Kompany could get caught. You could see how that tactic could work in the Manchester derby.
“Pogba makes a big, big difference. So when they went to Anfield, they couldn’t connect the deep defence to the midfield and into attack. He connects that, he links it, with those runs forward and his composure on the ball. It was a cloud over a very good day for United because he is such an important player in the connection between the front and the back.
“The composure he shows travelling with the ball, you see West Ham when they were deep with 20 minutes to go, they didn’t have anybody that could travel with the ball, past (Kevin) De Bruyne and (David) Silva. You think about Pogba, he would beat De Bruyne and Silva with the ball at his feet and break that line. Once you break that line you’re onto the weakness, you’re onto those two centre-backs with Lukaku and Martial.
“City is a big game to not have Pogba. The person who can break the line is gone, but Jose Mourinho will be looking at how he can do it differently.
“I was trying to think myself what Jose will be thinking. Do you play split strikers with Martial and Lukaku? City bring their full-backs in narrow while two centre-backs push up the pitch, [so United could] just leave two strikers stretched wide and you play three central midfielders and five at the back, and say to City that’s what we’ll do, trust that the front two will get into those areas.”