Can returning Paul Pogba solve Manchester United’s midfield and mentality problems?

The Manchester United of the past would have walked out of Villa Park on Saturday night with all three points having weathered a second-half storm to win 2-0. However, this is not the Manchester United of the past and sadly, the Manchester United of the present is plagued with problems that persist regardless of the identity of the manager.

Caretaker boss Ralf Rangnick admitted that in hindsight he should perhaps have switched to a three-point defense to give the team more defensive solidity against Aston Villa, as Steven Gerrard’s side dominated after the break to earn a deserved 2-2 draw. -two. However, the German’s management of the game was not the only problem in another disappointing night of Premier League football for United.

Mental frailty and family issues in midfield contributed to losing two more points in the quest to finish in the top four.

Let’s start with the latter. In just under two weeks, the transfer window will close and as it stands, United are nowhere near signing anyone. The club’s stance in the winter window remains the same: it’s a tough time to do business and they will only move for summer targets that suddenly become available mid-season for one reason or another.

Obviously, history has shown that January signings can have transformative effects on teams. United only need to go back to the Bruno Fernandes acquisition to see the impact a new addition can have at Old Trafford. And let’s not forget that last January’s moves for Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra didn’t turn out too bad either!

But it looks like United fans will have to wait to see an arrival at their troublesome position.

The main targets, Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham, will not budge in the coming weeks and while Amadou Haidara, the RB Leipzig midfielder, is a more attainable option this window, there has yet to be an official approach and sources say that tickets remain unlikely.

Then there is Paul Pogba, out of action since the end of October.

The France international has returned to training after a thigh injury and could be back in action next month, but if you look at the way United conceded their goals against Aston Villa, his return will not mark a big difference.

The 28-year-old’s creativity would be welcomed, but United were punished in Birmingham for not having the kind of strong defensive shield that a top-class deep midfielder provides.

At Villa Park Nemanja Matic’s pace was a problem and so was Fred’s positioning. The Brazilian was pushing further up the pitch, helping to create Fernandes’ second goal, but contributing to United being trapped in Villa’s late equaliser. A lack of control in midfield has let United down countless times this season.

While Gerrard had Philippe Coutinho to bring in from the bench to change the game, Rangnick was in no position to field his own exciting signing in January.

Despite admitting the difficulty of doing business in the January window, Rangnick has pointed to midfield as an area for improvement but, unless his superiors change their minds about doing business in the next two weeks, he will have to keep the same team to watch it until the end of the season. So he will have to make the most of the talent at his disposal, which means it is imperative that he solves the mental problem that is holding United back at the moment.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted when in charge that sometimes players panicked at the first sign of trouble and thus failed to finish games. Rangnick disagreed with the statement that his team panicked after Jacob Ramsey’s goal went into Villa Park, but they did not have the composure or experience to withstand the inevitable attack that followed.

In fact, just four minutes later, the hosts were tied.

It was difficult to accept, given that it had been United’s best performance of Rangnick’s short tenure to that point, but it’s clear that players lack confidence when the going gets tough.

The onus now falls on the manager to harness their motivational skills to restore some confidence and mental toughness, as their bosses won’t be looking for answers in the winter window. And Pogba’s return is unlikely to provide either.