The Verdict - Battling Huddersfield Town unable to spoil Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United return

THE most wonderful time of the year?

Huddersfield Town's Laurent Depoitre attempts an overhead kick during the Premier League match at Old Trafford (Picture: Martin Rickett/PA)

Not for Huddersfield Town, who yesterday succumbed to defeat for the sixth time since the start of December to slip back to the foot of the Premier League.

Paul Pogba struck twice in the second half after Nemanja Matic had opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark to ensure Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first home game since succeeding Jose Mourinho yielded the Boxing Day victory Old Trafford had demanded.

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It meant the Norwegian headed down the touchline at full-time to a grateful ovation from a home support who seem as delighted to have a club legend in the dugout as they are to be rid of Mourinho.

Amid all this festive bonhomie among those clad in red who had not set off early in an attempt to beat the Manchester traffic, the reaction from the 3,100 travelling fans was equally telling.

Town had just lost for the 13th time in 19 league outings to reach the halfway stage of the season with a paltry ten points.

Few teams survive from such an unpromising position and a group of supporters who have seen their side score just a dozen times this term could maybe have been forgiven for being none too impressed at having just endured yet another loss.

However, those who had made the trip across a foggy Pennines earlier in the day rose as one to salute their side’s efforts.

Manchester United's Paul Pogba and Huddersfield Town's Alex Pritchard (right) battle for possession (Picture: PA)

With good cause, too, as Town had contributed fully to an entertaining contest that had seen the visitors create ten of the game’s 26 chances.

That it took until the very last of those opportunities just two minutes from time for David Wagner’s men to finally get on the scoresheet was a big clue as to why Yorkshire’s sole top-flight representative is propping up the table with just one game of 2018 remaining.

With the odd exception such as the August hammering by Manchester City or last Saturday’s insipid defeat at home to Southampton, Town’s season has pretty much been the same game on a never-ending loop.

Play well, fail to capitalise when on top and then get hit with a sucker punch or two to end the day empty-handed.

Yesterday the pondering of those all-too-familiar ‘if onlys’ on the journey home centred on Terence Kongolo missing a gilt-edged opportunity and then David de Gea denying Laurent Depoitre with the kind of save that sets the Spaniard apart in a Premier League chock-full of quality goalkeepers.

Had either of these key moments gone Town’s way – and in particular when Kongolo fired over from close range with the scores level on ten minutes and Solskjaer desperate to harness the feelgood factor generated by his appointment on an interim basis – then the afternoon could have ended very differently.

As it was, Solskjaer’s new charges displayed the ruthless edge that the Terriers so badly lack to claim all three points.

First, Matic was in the right place at the right time to finish from close range after the impressive Christopher Schindler had blocked Victor Lindelof’s flicked header from a corner on the line.

Then, Pogba drilled a 20-yard effort past Jonas Lossl following excellent approach play from Juan Mata and Anders Herreira.

Pogba’s second was even more impressive, the French World Cup winner exchanging passes with Jesse Lingard before firing in from 30 yards out.

As Old Trafford hailed the second of an impressive double from Pogba, Town could only bemoan their own big opportunities having gone begging.

Kongolo’s scooped shot over the crossbar after Schindler had diverted Philip Billing’s long throw into his path was a big moment. So, too, was how De Gea clawed Depoitre’s shot from a well-worked corner just after the hour to prevent the visitors drawing level.

Other chances that came and went without De Gea having to pick the ball out of the net included Billing firing into the side-netting in first-half stoppage time and Elias Kachunga blazing high and wide following good work from Isaac Mbenza, who yesterday finally looked the player who Wagner had been so keen to sign last summer.

Depoitre also fatally hesitated when released by Billing just after the break to underline just why every club in the country’s ‘goals for’ column boasts more than the one belonging to Huddersfield.

Jorgensen did improve that meagre tally but it was too little, too late against a United side led by a former striker who scored one of the most famous last-gasp goals of all time when winning the Champions League in 1999.

Manchester United: De Gea; Dalot (Young 53), Lindelof, Jones, Shaw; Fred (Herrera 53), Matic, Mata (Gomes 80); Pogba, Lingard, Rashford. Unused substitutes: Bailly, Pereira, Romero, Fellaini.

Huddersfield Town: Lossl; Durm, Jorgensen, Schindler, Kongolo; Hadergjonaj, Billing; Kachunga (Lowe 57), Pritchard, Mbenza (Quaner 62); Depoitre (Mounie 73). Unused substitutes: Hogg, Bacuna, Hamer, Stankovic.

Referee: J Moss (West Yorkshire).