It is getting more and more difficult for those who wish to continue to mock Paul Pogba following his return to Manchester United, as over the past six weeks he has shown why the club paid so much money to correct a negligent mistake.
While the Frenchman no doubt struggled to find a role that could get the best out of his talents in a turbulent start to the season for both player and club, things are unquestionably looking up for both. A system has indeed been found, and Pogba is becoming the catalyst for much of Man Utd's creativity.
That system not only includes Michael Carrick, but depends on him. Carrick looked to be on the fringes as recently as October, when Michael Owen and Paul Scholes were crying out for his inclusion, and Tim Sherwood even predicted he would go to Man City in January. Good man, Tactics Tim. But instead he has been an ever-present since he was inserted into the lineup for the Manchester derby in the EFL Cup.
Since that win, Mourinho is seeing the performances that he wants, even if the results haven't quite followed suit. For the fans, while the dropped points are unquestionably frustrating, there are very few complaints over the style with which the team is playing.
They are playing quick, attacking football with absolutely minimal sideways bullshit. If you told that to a United fan in July they'd be over the moon.
And Paul Pogba is crucial to all of that.
There are two trademark moves that Pogba utilises that you just don't see other players do; the "hand-off" and his signature dinked pass that he's shown a real fondness of.
The hand-off is exactly what it says on the tin, any time an opposition player gets close and Paul wants a bit more time, he simply delivers a Jonah Lomu-esque palm to the chest to give himself some space. It looks like it could be foul sometimes, but you can't really penalise a player for "big-brothering" another if football wants to be considered a contact sport.
The dinked pass is Pogba's way of splitting a defence. When defenders anticipate a shot or whipped cross, he floats the most delicate of chips into his striker, which can often catch them off guard too.
Here are perfect examples of both from the Crystal Palace match:
He also has a heat-seeking missile of a diagonal pass, which when matched with immaculate volleying technique (best seen by his scorcher against Swansea) and the ability to unlock a defence with a flick of his boot, makes for a bloody terrifying prospect.
The thing is, all of these attributes and weapons revolve around creativity in attack, and creativity comes as a result of freedom to express yourself in the final third. Paul Pogba is granted that freedom by the presence of Michael Carrick.
The veteran midfielder is still absolutely one of the most important players at the club. His organisation and game-management are something that simply cannot be replicated by anyone else in the squad, and at 35 years of age, finding a new player that can do that must become a top priority soon.
Sitting behind the continually outstanding Ander Herrera in a midfield three, Carrick brings the balance that has been sorely lacking. The combination of an old-head who eases the nerves of those around him while organising and orchestrating from deep, a box-to-box Energizer Bunny who lives for slick passes and hard tackles, and a prototype athlete with the ability to create art with a football, is making the difference for Manchester United.
Jamie Carragher: “When I’ve seen United at their best, it has been with Pogba, Herrera and Carrick in the middle.” #MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtdUpdates_) December 14, 2016
Compliment that with the pace and quick-thinking of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Mourinho's team is much, much more like it in terms of what the folks turning up every week at Old Trafford want to see.
It's not that taking Carrick out will cause the side to collapse like a house of cards, but there's no denying how much better everything flows with #16 back there pointing his teammates through the game. Pogba has himself had good games playing deeper in a two alongside Herrera, and that is certainly an option should Mourinho want to ensure that either Wayne Rooney or Juan Mata get a place in the side against perceived weaker teams.
But Carrick sets the platform, and Paul Pogba is starting to look more and more comfortable. Without having to worry about shielding the back four and having someone who can tell him when he needs to be somewhere, the shackles are off Paul Pogba and we see him play his best stuff.