How Jesse Lingard is preventing Paul Pogba from producing his best for Manchester United
Paul Pogba is struggling to find his best form at the base of Manchester United's midfield of late - and according to Martin Keown, it's down to Jesse Lingard.
Pogba was dropped for last weekend's win over Huddersfield but was restored to the starting line-up by Jose Mourinho at Newcastle on Sunday.
However, the Frenchman failed to impress as United slumped to a 1-0 defeat and was hauled off after 66 minutes.
Mourinho was asked if there was an injury post-game, but revealed that his decision had been made because he wanted the 'simplicity' of Michael Carrick at the heart of midfield rather than the £89million star.
“I wanted a better way to come out in the first phase against a team that was defending in a very compact block," said Mourinho after the game.
“I was trying that with the simplicity of Michael Carrick because he tries to make everything simple and bring Alexis in an area close to Lukaku where he can be like a second striker."
It was another below-par display from the ex-Juventus man, who again lined up at the base of midfield alongside Nemanja Matic.
Mourinho continues to prefer a 4-2-3-1 formation, but Pogba's best displays this term have often come in a 4-3-3 formation - most notably the away win at Everton.
And ex-Arsenal defender Martin Keown, writing in his Daily Mail column, believes that Jesse Lingard's excellent season is proving Pogba's biggest problem.
"The Frenchman is at his best when he is in the final third hitting shots, going at defenders, being creative and making those buccaneering runs into the box," declared Keown. "At Juventus, he would often have a midfielder like Andrea Pirlo sitting deeper which allowed him to express himself higher up the pitch.
"He cannot do that when he is made to play deeper but the form of Lingard is keeping him from that more advanced position. People say Jose Mourinho does not develop young players but under his watch Lingard has been playing exceptionally well.
"Against Newcastle, Pogba wanted to show Mourinho that he could be a disciplined midfielder. But in that position Pogba looks anonymous. He does not look happy, does not flourish and there is no joy in his performance.
"He becomes just another player and we do not see the qualities that prompted United to buy him back for £89million."
United's loss on Tyneside left them 16 points behind league-leaders Manchester City.
But, perhaps more importantly, it allowed Liverpool and Spurs to close the gap in the top four battle, as United were defeated for the second time in three league outings.
Paul Pogba dazzled for Serie A champions after making a move to Turin from his current club Manchester United. He has however been unable to replicate his form making football fans to make a mockery of his career in England.
Jose Mourinho has been linked with a search for another deep-lying midfield player in Arturo Vidal. This perhaps indicate the growing frustration of the Red Devils with the downscaling performance of the Frenchman.