Paul Pogba has revealed he was unable to run in Manchester United’s first game of the season as he struggled with the debilitating effects of coronavirus.
The France international tested positive for COVID-19 while away with his country at the end of August, forcing him out of the squad as he spent a period in self-isolation.
He was named in United’s starting line-up for their Premier League opener against Crystal Palace three weeks later and lasted 67 minutes of the 3-1 home defeat.
Pogba struggled in that game and has been in and out of the side ever since, not helped by niggling injury problems, but he impressed in Sunday’s (AEDT) 3-1 win at West Ham.
After scoring from range to get United back on level terms at the London Stadium, the 27-year-old is hopeful his fitness issues are now firmly behind him.
“It’s strange and hard to explain because you wouldn’t understand,” Pogba told MUTV when asked about his coronavirus ordeal. “Even in training, I would say to the fitness coach that I feel strange.
“It’s not me. I [would] get tired very fast and I’m out of breath really fast. The first game of the season, I couldn’t run. I was trying.
“I spoke with the manager, ‘I will start the game and let’s see’, but I was very out of breath and it took me a long time to get me back to my fitness and to get back physically good.
“Obviously it feels good to play again. The lads have been playing really well as well. I had an injury, a long-term injury, I came back, it was strange for me. I wasn’t ready physically, I would say.
“I felt weakness physically. You know, just to play the 90 minutes and carrying on with the games… it’s such a difference. I’m finding my rhythm, as well. I feel so much better, I felt I could go again [against West Ham], control the game, getting the ball.
“That’s what I like, myself. That’s what I think is good for the team. I’m a team player. As long as the team wins, that’s the most important, you know.
“I find myself good and we want to win. That’s why I came here and that’s why I want to be successful.”
Pogba’s strike cancelled out Tomas Soucek’s opener for West Ham before Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford went on to complete the turnaround.
United struggled to get going in the first half but Pogba felt the second-half showing from his side set the blueprint for what is to be expected.
“We played how we love to play football,” he said. “Remember against Leipzig, when we played, when we scored the goals in the second half, it was the same. It was two-touch, two-touch, one-touch.
“The goal of Rashy was one-touch football. It was beautiful. That’s what we are, we have the quality to do that, and we have to do it from the start.
“There are so many chances. We conceded, it was hard for us in the first half and we showed character in the second half and that’s what we have to remember.”
United have won all five away Premier League matches this season – with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men trailing in each of those – and a club-record nine in a row going back to last season.
Pogba is at a loss to explain why his side continually make life tough for themselves on their travels but says winning is ultimately all that matters.
“I don’t know why it happens. Maybe we like to concede a goal, I don’t know what it is,” he said. “We have to resolve this, but it ended up good and that’s the most important thing.
“That’s the most important thing, that we have a good reaction, even though we know we can do so much better. We end up winning the games and show so much character.”
He added: “Fortunately, it’s football. We’ve been doing this for a long time and we know we have to improve on this. We don’t want a reaction, we want to do it from the start.
“The result is positive. We have to improve, we know we can improve, we can do so much better and we showed it in the second half.
“Let’s keep positive, it’s a positive result. In the second half, we showed who we were and the result came by itself.”