Paul Pogba has been nominated for the new Castrol Game Changer award - which will be awarded to the player with the single most game-changing performance during the 2021/22 Premier League Season.
Click here to vote for your 2021/2022 Castrol Premier League Game Changer.
Manchester United’s 5-1 annihilation of Leeds on the opening day of the 2021/22 Premier League looked like it could be the start of something special.
Jadon Sancho didn’t even start following his £73m switch from Borussia Dortmund, while Raphael Varane was introduced to the crowd before kick-off, suggesting there was plenty of room to get even better. What’s more, re-signing Cristiano Ronaldo still seemed like a distant pipe dream.
It almost seems worth ignoring how things ultimately didn’t go as planned over the course of the season that followed because of the optimism of that day and how well everything went.
Bruno Fernandes scored a hat-trick to start the season with a bang, but Paul Pogba’s four Game Changer assists – equalling a Premier League record for the most goals set up in one game – were more significant.
It showed everything that Pogba was capable of when things were right. Conversely, the Frenchman had managed only three Premier League assists in the entirety of 2020/21.
United’s thumping win over a fierce rival would simply not have been possible without Pogba, the way he was dictating things with Game Changer moments of brilliance, picking passes others could only dream of seeing, let alone actually pull off.
Pogba probably should have scored himself before his flurry of assists kicked in, sending the ball narrowly wide of the post after making a burst forward from midfield. Yet when he pinged a first-time pass into the path of Fernandes for United to soon go ahead it mattered little.
United briefly lost their lead before Pogba split the Leeds defence to create a second goal shortly after half-time. His hat-trick of assists was then complete only minutes later when he played a cute, measured path through to Fernandes.
For the fourth assist, it was a smart run into the left channel that caught his marker napping, with Pogba shaping to whip the ball into the box. Instead, he cut it back to Fred to sweep it home.
Pogba’s United career has never quite matched the expectation of his 2016 world record transfer. But in certain Game Changer performances he has shown exactly why his reputation for the past decade has been that of one of the world’s best midfielders.