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The misunderstanding of Paul Pogba

The misunderstanding of Paul Pogba

Reports suggest that Paul Pogba will leave Manchester United this summer. He’s often been an unpopular figure at Old Trafford, but has he really been as much of a failure as people say?

Manchester United let Paul Pogba leave the club for free as a youngster, and bought him back from Juventus in 2016. He cost them almost £90 million. 

He’s since won the World Cup with France and even scored in the final. 

Yet that price tag has weighed heavily on the Frenchman in the last six seasons. He’s been badly criticised for a lack of form, a lack of effort, and even a lack of interest. 

“What would you like to say all things Paul Pogba?”

“I wouldn’t put Paul Pogba in the Wigan team, he’d make it worse.”

“You’re in League One, aren’t you at the moment?”

“Eugene…”

“You would have Paul Pogba at Wigan.”

“The amount of passion them players put in week in, week out…you just would not see it from Paul Pogba. He’s lazy, he’s just not…he doesn’t give anything.”

talkSPORT

And Manchester United fans haven’t been too enamoured with him either. 

“People say that at United all the players aren’t pulling in the same direction and they’re not. They’re playing for themselves. It’s like people saying about Paul Pogba staying…why? He’s there for the money. If he was at United to actually try and win things, you’d see him tracking back, you’d see him putting the effort in.”

Talksport

Paul Pogba was even booed by United fans when he was substituted during a 3-2 win over Norwich. 

But it’s also widely acknowledged that Manchester United’s problems run deep. There’s not one overall reason for their lack of success, which is why boss Ralf Rangnick told reporters that the side needs open heart surgery.

So is Paul Pogba really as bad as people suggest?

At Juventus, Paul Pogba played on the left-hand side of a three-man midfield alongside some combination of Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal. 

For France, he plays on the left-hand side of a three-man midfield too. 

That means that he’s free to be more creative, because the other two midfielders can provide defensive cover if needed. He can drive forward with the ball and make runs into the box. 

“Again, as we all know, the best version of Paul Pogba that we’ve seen at club level is very different to international level but at club level was in the midfield three when he played on that left-hand side in a very good – albeit – Juve team.” 

ESPN FC

But Manchester United tends to play with a two-man midfield. 

That’s meant Paul Pogba has played as the most defensive midfielder ten times, and in a more advanced attacking role nine times. Neither of these are regarded as his best position.

He’s criticised for not being able to make these changes in position work. That’s where the comments about effort and work-rate come from. 

Here’s Manchester United midfield legend Paul Scholes talking to BT Sport  in 2017.

“I watched him a lot at Juventus. Cos Juventus are a really good team. He was a runner. He was a worker in that team, I’d see him sprint to balls, I’d see him sprinting to make tackles, he’s scoring goals. And the footballer, the man who controlled the game was Pirlo. Now he’s being asked to do that at Manchester United…it’s not what he does best.”

BT Sport

But when nutritionists and sports psychologists are employed by clubs to achieve just a 1% advantage, there’s a chance that fielding a player in his correct position could be an easy win.

Paul Pogba scored 34 goals and assisted his team-mates 40 times in 178 appearances for Juventus. At United, he’s scored 39 times and assisted on 51 occasions. But it’s taken him 233 games to get there.

Yet this season, he’s made more assists than any other Manchester United player. 

Paul Pogba can attack. He can, as Paul Scholes said, do the defensive work too. As we’ve seen with France and Juventus, he shines when he’s asked to do a bit of both. But at United, he’s been tasked with doing one or the other.

On top of that, there’s been a lot of pressure in Manchester. His every move is scrutinised. Recently, there was a whole article written about whether or not he’d left the Whatsapp group chat with the other Manchester United players. 

Could it be that he’s become a scapegoat for more deep rooted problems at Manchester United?

If he does move on this summer, it could be the best solution for all involved.

Today’s story was written by Chloe Beresford and mixed by Imy Harper.