Is Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba a big-game player?

Is Manchester United’s Paul Pogba a big-game player? We check the stats ahead of the blockbuster derby with Manchester City this weekend…

The World Cup winner earned praise from Jose Mourinho for his performances in Russia but, despite raising his game on the ultimate stage for France this summer, has he produced the goods in big games for United?

I think the World Cup is the perfect habitat for a player like him to give their best. Why? Because it’s closed for a month, where he can only think about football.

Jose Mourinho

Just six months ago, with hair controversially streaked in sky blue, Pogba scored twice in two minutes to level the scores before Chris Smalling completed a stunning match-winning comeback at the Etihad – putting City’s title coronation on ice.

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According to the Sky Sports Power Rankings – an algorithm that measures player performances based on 34 different matchday metrics – that game against City was Pogba’s second finest in the Premier League to date.

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The numbers suggest his top statistical league performance came in December 2016 during a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace, when he combined with Zlatan Ibrahimovic to score the opener and teed up the Swede for a late winner.

In terms of games against Big Six rivals, the 25-year-old has missed eight out of 22 league clashes through injury since his return to the club more than two years ago.

Darren Fletcher on Paul Pogba’s role

As the graphic below shows, his performances have been typically underwhelming against United’s top-five rivals, averaging at just 1,452 points per game – some 40 per cent fewer than against lesser teams.

Pogba only scored in two of those 14 games: against City and Arsenal in April this year – which remain the only games he has registered in excess of 2,000 points against the elite to date.

According to the rankings, his worst performance in the Premier League was against Liverpool in January 2017 – conceding a 27th-minute penalty in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

This season, Pogba recorded his second-worst performance during the 3-0 defeat to Spurs at Wembley in August, while his run out in the 2-2 draw at Chelsea last month also reaped below-average returns.

The radar graphic below suggests Pogba is deployed in a more defensive role against Big Six sides, winning far more tackles and interceptions – frequently being deployed in a 4-2-3-1 rearguard pairing.

Interestingly, Mourinho deployed Pogba in a 4-3-3 formation during his standout games against City and Arsenal – epitomised with his second goal at the Etihad and underlining his attacking potency when unleashed.

Pogba in starting formations against Big Six rivals

Can Pogba raise his game and emulate his performance against City in April? Watch Manchester City v Manchester United live on Sky Sports Premier League from 4.15pm on Sunday

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