Manchester United need Pogba at his best to salvage their season
Pogba’s return would allow United to relegate Jesse Lingard back to the bench. Lingard is an odd mixture of effort and ineffectiveness. Whether it is deliberate or not, he is rarely found in positions where his talent and bravery is tested. Instead, he is a safe and pedestrian player. That might be useful in central midfield, but serves to blunt attacks when he is deployed as a number 10 or on the wing.
Mikel Arteta has declared his admiration for Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka, revealing he was interested in bringing him to Manchester City when he started as Pep Guardiola’s assistant
Steven Smith came through his personal battle against the short ball, to finish Boxing Day within sight of another MCG hundred, as Australia took the honours on 4 for 257 after being put into bat on a well-grassed surface that provided a better contest than in the last couple of years.
Marnus Labuschagne, who was at the crease in the first over after Joe Burns fell for a first-ball duck, appeared to be setting himself for a fourth hundred in four Tests but was cut-off for 63 after an innings that had included a fair degree of fortune. David Warner had got himself set during the morning session, when conditions were at their trickiest, but Matthew Wade’s stay was far from convincing as he was worked over by the contrasting approaches of Neil Wagner and Colin de Grandhomme.
New Zealand, playing an MCG Boxing Day for the first time in 32 years, needed more than four wickets to justify Kane Williamson’s decision to bowl first on the much talked-about wicket which had a considerable covering of grass and offered a little bit of assistance through the day although at no great pace.