Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba cannot be considered “top-class” and on the same level as Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, says Rafa Benitez.
The France international made his return to competitive action against Benitez’s Newcastle following a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a hamstring complaint.
Pogba slotted seamlessly back into the Old Trafford fold, with a talismanic display helping Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils to a convincing 4-1 victory .
The 24-year-old has earned plenty of plaudits on the back of his display, but former Liverpool boss Benitez believes he still has some way to go before being placed in a talent bracket alongside modern day icons.
He told reporters when pressed on comparisons between Pogba and ex-England captain Gerrard: “They’re different. Stevie was a top-class player for so many years.
“He was very consistent and could make the difference in every game, with or without the ball.
“He was a top-class player. Pogba is a great player, but he still has to be consistent for years like Stevie was for 10 or 15 years
“Pogba is not my player, so I don’t need to talk too much about him. He’s a great player, like the majority of the Manchester United players.
“But I’m concentrated on trying to improve my players.”
Pogba scored one and created another as he returned with a bang against Newcastle.
Mourinho billed him as “different class” in the wake of an eye-catching performance, while the £89 million man admitted to feeling “blessed” at being back out on the field.
Having sat out 12 games through injury, Pogba said: “To come back, to play again, to see Old Trafford, to see the fans again, to score on my comeback, I feel blessed.
“Most of last season I had injuries, but small ones. You just have to recover well because the Premier League is different to Italy.
“It’s more intense and you have to think about recovery, then you have more games.
“I’ve trained very hard to come back fit. The season is really long so we have to be fit – not only me but all the players.”
Victory over Newcastle kept United second in the Premier League table, eight points adrift of arch-rivals Manchester City at the summit.