Pit, pat, pit, pat. Here comes Paul Pogba, for his penalty. Pit, pat, pit, pat. Little steps, a bizarre abstraction, as if he’s started something for amusement’s sake and now cannot stop. Pit, pat, pit, pat, pit, pat. He’s getting nearer now, advancing on the ball, 14 little hops and counting, the stadium almost hushed, wondering what happens next.Then the stride lengthens, and the comic vignette is at an end and the ball is in the roof of Kasper Schmeichel’s net and Manchester United’s season is off and running.
That is what winning a World Cup does for a player. It fills him up: with confidence, bravery, wit, imagination. Maybe that it what the captain’s armband at Manchester United does, too, except Pogba has had that before and has rarely played with the swagger and certainty of Friday night. If this wasn’t a statement United victory it was because Leicester remain very troublesome opponents, on their day, and few teams will find it easy against them.United certainly didn’t but neither side, to be fair, could field their strongest starting team so soon after the World Cup. United did not introduce Romelu Lukaku until midway through the second-half, Jamie Vardy came on for Leicester a little earlier.
Pogba captained in the absence of Antonio Valencia although seeing what it brought from him, will Mourinho be tempted to make the change permanent? He certainly seemed impressed with Pogba’s willingness to play so soon after his exertions in Russia, and if the player’s head has been turned by Barcelona as is claimed, he showed no sign of it with an energetic, diligent display.