Craig Burley admitted he was ‘surprised’ by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision to start Paul Pogba in the Manchester derby.
Manchester United boss Solskjaer played the World Cup winner from the start against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, despite his agent claiming his time at Old Trafford was ‘over’ earlier in the week.
Pogba has been in and out of the side in recent weeks and had to settle for a place on the bench during the midweek defeat to Red Bull Leipzig – which saw Solskjaer’s side knocked out of the Champions League.
But he was back in the starting line-up against City and put in a solid display in what was a fairly dull 0-0 draw.
Burley, the former Chelsea player, confessed he didn’t expect Pogba to be selected to start the game and instead thought he would be used as an impact substitute.
However, he thought the French midfielder performed well and didn’t let Solskjaer down.
‘I didn’t think he’d play,’ Burley told ESPN of Pogba’s inclusion. ‘Generally what he has done is come off the bench in desperation.
‘I thought he was one of United’s better players, without being exhilarating.
‘The big concern I would have had was his defensive responsibilities and that would have been the concern of Solskjaer.
‘So no issues there, I was just a little bit surprised – like a lot of people – he made the starting line-up today.’
The result leaves Manchester United four points off top spot, with City a further point behind in ninth place.
Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool will have the chance to extend their leads at the top of the table when they face Crystal Palace respectively on Sunday.
However, City and United will have played a game less than both by the conclusion of the weekend’s matches.
Should they win those yet to be arranged games in hand – in City’s case against Aston Villa and United’s against Burnley – United would climb above Chelsea and City would draw level with them on points.