Jose Mourinho's decision to replace Manchester United's record signing with a youth team graduate on the same weekend Pep Guardiola chose to overlook Manchester City's array of young talent and name six substitutes instead of the permitted seven was a definite PR win for the Portuguese coach.
It dented the notion the United boss does not trust young players, underlining his own recent comments that he is "not the monster that kills kids" when it comes to youth development. Combined with what happened at the Etihad, it also served to considerably dim the hysteria around the decision to drop Pogba for Scott McTominay in the first place; the first time the France international has been left out of the starting XI after an underwhelming performance.
It was a dreadful evening at Tottenham Hotspur that cost Pogba his place in the 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town last Saturday [3 February]. The loss in north London served to highlight a major midfield problem United have when taking on teams at the top of the table; against the elite; a midfield two isn't enough. But as has proven to be the case this season, it should be against the teams lower down the division; including Newcastle United, who host the 20-time English champions on Sunday [11 February].
Mourinho will hope his decision to drop Pogba last weekend will act as a clearer message than the one he tried in vain to pass onto him on the touchline at Wembley eight days ago. Dropping out of the starting XI won't reflect badly on McTominay, who did the simple things effectively in a mature performance at Old Trafford last Saturday. More chances for him await.
Anthony Martial was the another big name omitted from the starting XI against the Terriers last weekend with Alexis Sanchez starting on the left and Juan Mata on the right. How Mourinho plans to get the best out of Martial and the Chile international on the pitch at the same time remains a perplexing dilemma for the manager, with both thriving in roles coming in off the left.
Sanchez is still to start a game on the right since joining United – although he did swap with Martial to take up that role in the second-half against Tottenham – and Sunday could be his turn to take up a role many United fans have envisioned him slotting into. As they did in against Spurs, both Martial and Sanchez could end up swapping sides throughout the contest until Mourinho finds some harmony in this new system – one that surely must include both of them.
Phil Jones was not in the squad last weekend after his disastrous performance in north London although comments made from his sister on social media suggested that was an enforced decision due to illness. The England international has been Mourinho's most trusted option at the back this season and with Eric Bailly still a few weeks away from his return, his partnership with Chris Smalling could return.