Paul Pogba is proving that he can be a “difference maker” at Manchester United, says Rene Meulensteen, with Alexis Sanchez challenged to do likewise under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The World Cup-winning midfielder at Old Trafford endured a testing start to the 2018-19 campaign as reports of a rift with Jose Mourinho led to him eventually being dropped to the bench.
He has, however, rediscovered his spark since a managerial change was made, with Solskjaer granting the 25-year-old greater freedom in which to express himself.
A flurry of goals and assists have been delivered for a new coaching regime, with Meulensteen delighted to see a player with undoubted ability playing to his full potential.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s former assistant, who was an academy and first-team coach at United as Pogba came through the ranks, told 888sport: “Ole has probably reassured Paul Pogba what a good player he is but secondly he has also placed on his shoulders the responsibilities he must live up to.
“Those responsibilities come down to just two things - work hard in every game and play the best football that you’re capable of for this club. When he does those things he’s a difference maker.”
Pogba is one of several players to have raised their game under Solskjaer, but more is still being demanded from another high-profile addition.
Chile international Sanchez has endured an injury-ravaged campaign, but has been backed to come good by several figures with strong ties to United.
Meulensteen added on the 30-year-old forward: “Alexis Sanchez is a runner with the ball. He likes to pick the ball up and basically drive forward past people. I would like to see Alexis Sanchez at his best for Manchester United because we all saw how good he was for Arsenal.
“You can’t tell me that that has suddenly disappeared. It’s all about making the players understand what is expected of them and unlocking how to get the best out of them. I’m sure that Ole will be able to do that.”
While confident that Pogba and Sanchez will thrive as part of Solskjaer’s set-up, Meulensteen concedes that Juan Mata – whose contract is running down towards free agency – could be deemed surplus to requirements.
“Ole obviously had a good look at the squad and he wants to play with a lot of energy and a lot of pace,” said the Dutchman.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Mata and think he’s a great player but it just might be that Mata doesn’t fit in the picture that Ole sees.
“That is obvious otherwise he would have played more often and at some point you have to refresh your squad in certain areas.”
United, who have collected eight wins and a draw from Solskjaer’s nine games so far, will be back in action on Sunday when they travel to Leicester.