The Northern Quota

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Pogba the hero as Reds reach Europa League quarter finals

  • Pogba off bench to sink AC Milan and send United through
  • Frenchman rises to occasion when needed
  • La Liga's Granada up next

Manchester United are through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League after beating AC Milan 1-0 away in Italy (2-1 on aggregate). Truth be told, United haven’t had the best of luck this season, being drawn against PSG and RB Leipzig in the Champions League, which was just the beginning.

Since then, the Reds have dropped to the Europa League and faced Real Sociedad and AC Milan. But credit where it's due, they’ve emerged from both games triumphant and reasonably unscathed.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves credit for leading his side through the Milan encounter, securing a 1-0 win at the San Siro after Milan snatched a last minute equaliser in the first leg at Old Trafford leaving them with an away-goal advantage at 1-1.

But that’s where Paul Pogba came into action in Italy. The mercurial French midfielder replaced Marcus Rashford at the interval to provide a different spark – and wow, did he make an impact after a toothless first half.

Despite being fresh from the treatment table after spending time out injured, Pogba produced a game-changing cameo, scoring the winning goal just minutes after coming on. With the ball bouncing about in the Milan penalty area, it was Pogba who displayed composure when others panicked to fire past Gianluigi Donnarumma after conning the Milan defenders with a fake shot.

Pogba's match stats

Not only was his goal the matchwinner, but his overall performance was superb. With only 51 minutes played, he achieved one goal, 46 touches, two chances created, six duels won, three fouls won, two interceptions and six recoveries, with a pass accuracy of 77.8 per cent. Now that's a game changer.

Pogba’s importance to United

Don’t get me wrong, there’s good reason to think that Pogba has caused more trouble than good since returning to United in 2016, but you simply can’t deny how incredibly talented he is.

And it’s on nights like these where big players are expected to perform on the big stage. Nights like these where you really wonder whether United can just allow their World Cup winning midfielder to swan out the exit in the summer because he really does produce moments of magic. Plus, he looks a lot happier now than he used to. Look at his body language and how he was beaming with his teammates when he scored. And who else do they have for vital moments like this?

Solskjaer is only too aware of the difference Pogba can make to this United side and made no secret about how impressed he was with the 28-year-old in his post-match interview.

Solskjaer remarked: “We’ve missed Paul. He’s been out for almost two months and any team would miss a player like Paul. He is very important for us and he’s going to give us a big boost. He makes a very, very big difference to us.”

In the Europa League quarter-finals which took place on Friday, Manchester United were drawn against La Liga side Granada. The first leg of two - away for United - will take place on 8 April at 8pm. Can Pogba do it again?

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