Paul Pogba admits he “was in the shadows” at Manchester United during Jose Mourinho’s reign, but has rediscovered the “pleasure” of playing again since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment.
Despite being returned to Old Trafford by a Portuguese coach in the summer of 2016, the France international rarely saw eye-to-eye with an outspoken manager.
Struggles to find a suitable role in a supposedly defensive system led to regular questions being asked of his form and ongoing presence in the United side.
A fresh start has been awarded to the World Cup winner, though, with Mourinho relieved of his duties, and the 25-year-old is flourishing under a boss prepared to play to his strengths.
Pogba has been given greater freedom to express himself, in a Red Devils team seeking to be more attacking as a collective, and produced another match-altering moment of magic during his most recent outing against Tottenham.
After delivering the defence-splitting pass which allowed Marcus Rashford to net the winner against Spurs, the all-action midfielder told reporters: “Before the coach arrived I was in the shadows, on the bench, and I accepted that.
“It is a pleasure to play again. Now I am always smiling.”
The mood inside Old Trafford has been raised both on the field and in the stands since Solskjaer was appointed as Mourinho’s successor on an interim basis.
The Norwegian has overseen six successive victories in all competitions, with United now just six points back in the race for a top-four finish and still in contention for FA Cup and Champions League honours.
A number of players, such as Pogba and Rashford, have rediscovered the spark which deserted them under the previous regime, with minor tweaks having made a marked difference.
Solskjaer is earning plenty of plaudits as a result, with the feel-good factor returned to the Red Devils squad by a man who knows all about the pressure and expectation of delivering under the brightest of spotlights.
“It’s a pleasure to be reunited with him,” Pogba said of a man he previously spent time working with in United’s youth system.
“I knew him from the academy and the reserves, when his nickname was ‘Supersub’.
“He is doing a really good job. As a player he knew the mentality of this club. He has come back to help us and it is going very well.”