We were approaching half-time at Old Trafford when Paul Pogba played a short pass to Victor Lindelof and immediately pulled up clutching his right thigh.
Pogba sank to the turf and informed referee Jon Moss that he would be taking no further part in Manchester United’s draw with Everton.
It was Moss who first signalled to the home dugout to get a substitute ready before Pogba got up and walked gingerly towards the touchline. The physio came on but only to confirm what we already knew and to help the Frenchman the rest of the way off the pitch.
Pogba’s race was run and, depending on the severity of the injury to his groin or thigh, it might be a few games before we see him again.
He will be missed. That might sound an obvious thing to say about United’s £89million record signing, who was efficient rather than spectacular for the 39 minutes he was on the pitch here, but it hasn’t always been the case.
The last couple of months have seen a difference in Pogba though.
He has been playing better than at any time since his first season back at Old Trafford when he teamed up with Zlatan Ibrahimovic to help United win the League Cup and Europa League.
The 27-year-old seems happier in himself and in this United side under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He is more of a team player, one no longer casting envious glances at Bruno Fernandes in the No 10 role.
It has brought better performances and important goals like the equaliser against West Ham in December and winners against Burnley and Fulham last month.
Solskjaer rested Pogba for the 9-0 romp against Southampton in midweek but brought him straight back as the only change to the team that faced Everton.
‘Paul has been excellent the last couple of months,’ said the United boss before kick-off. ‘He had a well-earned rest against Southampton and now he’s ready to go again.
‘I like most of the things with Paul as a footballer, he is creative and he is now doing a shift for us defensively. He is physical and wins headers for us and today set plays will be important for us.’
That’s not to say the Pogba puzzle has been solved by any means. It hasn’t always been easy to accommodate him in Solskjaer’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, with Pogba never entirely happy playing in the defensive midfield role because he cannot get forward enough.
Solskjaer also likes the energy of Fred – the man who made way for Pogba and then replaced him – and Scott McTominay.
Neither is Pogba a perfect fit for the wide positions where he has been tried on both the left and right flanks in recent weeks.
Again, Solskjaer has more suitable options there in Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.
Then, of course, there is the incessant speculation over Pogba’s future fuelled largely by the player himself and his irksome agent Mino Raiola.
Even though the France midfielder didn’t play in midweek, Solskjaer had to field a number of questions about him in his Friday press conference after Pogba’s brother Mathias told Spanish TV that United would have to sell him this summer or see him walk away for nothing at the end of his contract in June 2022.
The inference was that Pogba will not sign a new deal. Raiola has indicated the same. Solskjaer says there is ‘open dialogue’ although it’s understood that the two parties have agreed to put off any contract talks until the end of the season.
In the meantime, it would suit everyone if Pogba could continue in his current form. On his day, he is a supreme midfielder. With that in mind, United will hope that his absence is only a brief one.