Paul Pogba said he is “always happy” when he is winning after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory at Burnley that took Manchester United top of the Premier League for the first time in three years on Tuesday.
Despite continued speculation over his future, Pogba has played an increasingly important role in recent weeks to aid United’s first serious title challenge since legendary former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men now lead defending champions Liverpool by three points ahead of a top-of-the-table clash between the two most successful sides in English football history at Anfield on Sunday.
“I’m always happy when I win,” said Pogba, who has been consistently linked with a move away from Old Trafford at the end of the season.
“I’m happy we are playing well and happy we are at the top, but there is a long way to go and we have big games coming up.”
United have now taken 29 from the last possible 33 points to recover from just two wins in their opening six games of the season.
The signing of Bruno Fernandes shortly after Burnley won 2-0 at Old Trafford nearly a year ago in the last meeting between the sides has transformed United’s fortunes.
And if Pogba can finally produce consistent displays worthy of the then world record fee United paid for the Frenchman in 2016, there is reason for Solskjaer to believe he can end the club’s eight-year wait for a league title.
“I’ve always said Paul is a big, big player for us,” added Solskjaer. “He is a good character in the dressing room, he is always one the lads look to (because) he’s a world champion.
“We are seeing the best of Paul at the moment. He’s getting better and better every game.”
The manner of victory against a Burnley side that had not lost at home since October also suggests United have the ability of champions to grind out a result when they need to.
The first-half was dominated by controversy over a series of VAR reviews as both sides escaped without having a man sent-off for challenges by Luke Shaw and Robbie Brady, while United had a goal harshly ruled out for a slight push by Harry Maguire when he powered home a header at the back post.
The visitors upped the pressure in the second-half and got their reward 19 minutes from time when Pogba’s volley from Marcus Rashford’s cross deflected off Matt Lowton and through the legs of Nick Pope to head to Anfield leading Liverpool.
“We couldn’t be going there at a better time to play them,” added Solskjaer. “We are in good shape, good form, hungry, these boys want to get better and that’s a test again.”
Everton win at Wolves
Everton moved back into the top four and within four points of United as they overcame an injury crisis to beat Wolves 2-1 at Molineux.
Carlo Ancelotti was forced to start without a recognised striker without Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison only fit enough for a place on the bench.
The Toffees took an early lead when Alex Iwobi converted Lucas Digne’s cross but were pegged back when Ruben Neves levelled for Wolves.
Michael Keane’s towering header won the game 13 minutes from time to bolster the Blues’ European ambitions.
“We adapted really well to the characteristics of the players we had,” said Ancelotti.
At the other end of the table, Sheffield United ended a 20-game winless league run as Billy Sharp’s penalty earned a 1-0 victory over 10-man Newcastle.
The Blades still face an uphill task to haul themselves off the bottom of the table as they sit nine points adrift of safety.
But Chris Wilder’s men ensured they will not set an unwanted record by going a full top-flight season without a win thanks to another night to forget for Newcastle.
“It looked like we got our identity back,” said Wilder. “It was us with the handbrake off, going for it and playing well in and out of possession.”
The Magpies could yet find themselves dragged into a relegation battle as they remain eight points above the drop zone in 15th, but have played two games more than Fulham in 18th.