Paul Pogba revealed Michael Carrick’s advice had inspired his second goal in Manchester United’s comeback win at the Etihad.
United halted Manchester City’s title celebrations with a Pogba-led second-half comeback against their cross-city rivals, pulling back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 with two goals from the midfielder, and keep the race for the Premier League trophy going for another week at least.
The Frenchman has courted debate all season over his best position and said playing in a three had allowed him the freedom to get forward, while revealing United legend Carrick had been the inspiration behind his lung-busting run for the equaliser.
He told Thierry Henry: “I give the credit to Michael Carrick, because after the game every game he shows me the video and says to make those runs. He’s someone who’s helped me a lot, every time after training he says: ‘Come, look at this run, you can kill because nobody can stop you.’
“It’s hard to make this run in a two, because you have to stay and you have to control. When we have three players, I know Matic will stay behind, and you have more freedom to go in front.”
Losing to City would have been particularly chastening for United given the celebrations it would have sparked at the full-time whistle – especially after Jose Mourinho’s complaints with how City had observed their 2-1 win at Old Trafford in December.
Pogba said it had helped spark their turnaround after the break, having formed a large part of their half-time inquest in the dressing room following a miserable first 45 minutes.
He added: “I didn’t want to lose against City last year. I still have it in my mind. Playing against City, at City, against Manchester United and if they win they are champions.
“We can lose the game and they’re already champions, but to lose against Manchester City and see them celebrate in their home stadium, I couldn’t let this happen.
“When we were in the changing room at half-time, everyone was saying we have nothing to lose. Let’s go, believe, keep believing, let’s do it.”
Graeme Souness said United had “laid down a marker” by becoming only the second side to beat Guardiola’s City in the league at the Etihad since he took over in 2016, but Pogba was as bewildered as anyone as to why they cannot reproduce that form more regularly.
He said: “That’s the question we are asking ourselves. After a performance like this, a second half like this, you have to do it all the time. If we did it all season, I think we would be fighting with City, or maybe in front of them.”