Paul Pogba says the chance to win the Premier League was why he returned to Manchester United, but has warned the club they cannot think about that unless they beat Liverpool.
United face their rivals on Sunday in a match that could have a major impact on the title race. They go into the match as league leaders, but Liverpool are defending champions and would overtake them with a win.
The simple fact that United are in contention for the title this year is a sign of progress. Just a couple of months ago, the mood around the club was low after they were knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage.
They have knuckled down since then and appear to be back on track. Pogba has enjoyed a better run of form in the team at the same time, but insists there is work to do before they can class themselves as Liverpool’s equals.
“We have improved a lot, we keep improving but we still have a very young team,” he told Sky Sports News.
“Obviously we cannot say now we are at the same level as them because they won the Premier League and keep winning. So the day we win – that is when we say we are at the same level.
“If you want to be the best you have to beat the best. We want to beat the Premier League winners.
“We know how good they have been playing over the last few years – we know their quality and how they play. It’s always been a tough game. We know how difficult it will be and we just have to focus and try to stay at the top.
“I think we can win it if we keep our focus but there’s a lot of teams that can win it. We are not there yet, we are still very far.”
Pogba won four Serie A titles with his previous club Juventus. But he has been unable to win the Premier League since returning to United in 2016.
The France international insists he is at Old Trafford to win trophies, though. So he is now wondering if this could be the year they get their hands back on the league trophy.
“That’s why I came here,” he said. “That’s why I came back here. It was to go and win.
“Obviously when you come you want to win straight away. But things happen. You try to build, and sometimes things happen you didn’t expect, but it’s for a good reason.
“Maybe this year we can win it, who knows? It made us improve, know about ourselves, get more experience, so everything happened for a reason.
“In my head you always want to win the first year, second year, the third year, but it’s not as easy as it seems.”
Pogba glad to be back playing
Pogba has had to be patient in recent months to get back to his best on the pitch. After struggling with injuries last season, he found himself on the bench towards the start of the current campaign.
However, he has now regained his starting role, taking to the field from the first minute for five of their eight league games since the beginning of December.
He is glad to have put his physical problems behind him and admitted he wasn’t happy being on the bench.
“I’ve been feeling very good, myself, physically and mentally as well,” he said. “And I’ve been playing, and when you play you get your form.
“It’s a huge difference when you start one game, and don’t play the other one, or if you don’t play for a few games.
“The team always help the players to be in good form. So the team has been playing very well, helping me and trusting me, with the staff too.
“So I just have to focus on myself and give my best on the pitch. In the left, the right, the middle, striker, defender, wherever I am on the pitch I give my best. That’s all I can do for my team.
“I hate to be on the bench, I don’t like it. It doesn’t mean other players don’t deserve to be playing, but just myself, I don’t like it.
“I am a winner, I just want to play football. I want to help my team, and when I’m on the bench and don’t come on, I feel I cannot help my team-mates so I feel bad, I don’t like it.”
The 2018 World Cup winner admitted it was a difficult situation not being a regular starter any more. But he is happier now that things are looking up again.
“It was hard, it was strange,” Pogba added.
“Last year was a tough season for me, with the injury, where people don’t really know about it, playing with the injury, with the double fracture, and trying to give my best as well for the team.
“Coming back is always strange, it’s like having a new ankle when you have an operation like this. I tried to come back as good as possible.
“Then obviously I got Covid, and form wasn’t the best, and the results with the team wasn’t the best for all of us, and we’re just coming back to a good form.
“The players being played in my position have been doing great – other midfielders Fred, Nemanja (Matic), Scott (McTominay) have been doing great.
“Where we are is because of all of them, all of us. We are at the top of the league now, and I’m happy for that now. I have to think about the team, and not about myself. Sometimes it’s hard!”