“It’s a big challenge too, just to come back to where I came from, where I grew up, where I started. I just didn’t finish what I started here so I think I came here to finish it.” An improved Paul Pogba was announced to the world. Fans delighted, rivals anxious, it looked like the perfect transfer to revive United’s glory days. Now 10 match-days later, Red Devils sit at 8th position, 8 points adrift of their city rivals.
Hype, Hype, Hype
Football isn’t a game of individuals & stats tell us Pogba hasn’t been that bad for United. But when you are the most expensive player in the world “not that bad” doesn’t cut it. The news coverage he’s received over the past four months has been nothing short of obsessive. Adidas already had one of the most talked about players in their ranks & now he was moving to one of the most talked about clubs. The hype Adidas generated was impossible for anyone to live up to.His transfer fee, music video unveiling & PogBoom hashtags didn’t help either. The end result being an extravagantly hyped 23-year-old with a mystical aura to live up to.
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Manchester got the player they wanted, but to utilize a player of Pogba’s caliber is a different game altogether.It all comes down to one key point, his role in the team and a deep midfield role might not be the solution. Maybe Mourinho was looking for a player equivalent to Matic as he was outstanding in a defensive sense in Chelsea’s title winning season. But looking at Pogba’s defensive abilities, only one word comes to mind, mediocre. In the top five European leagues – England, France, Italy, Germany and Spain – Pogba ranks 18th for recovering the ball last season. Defensively speaking Idrissa Gueye bests Paul Pogba in every category. He made more tackles, intercepted more balls, broke the counters & all that whilst playing for an abysmal Aston Villa. Give Pogba his favorite position & he’s a different beast altogether. He is a central midfielder who loves to take the ball forward, influence plays in the final 3rd & catch goalkeepers out by thundering long rangers. Last season he racked up 12 assists, 9th highest in Europe. Paul Pogba is someone who can influence the outcome of a game single-handedly. It’s tough to create chances individually, but his willingness to dribble makes him one of the most feared attackers in Europe. He was one of the 8 players to complete more than 100 dribbles. At 23, Pogba is yet to reach his full potential but he’s been showing constant growth. His 8 goals & 12 assists were his best ever in Italy. In England, he is not getting the freedom he got in Italy, as Mourinho usually prefers a solid 4-2-3-1 formation & not the traditional 4-3-3 in which Pogba excels. Technically, he could start as a defensive mid with Fellaini/Schneiderlin & then drive forward as the game progresses, but that hasn’t been the case. He starts as a defensive midfielder & then just wanders around aimlessly as if he’s not really sure what his role is.
Jose Mourinho named Pogba as a No.10 for the Europa League tie with Feyenoord but here too he failed to do any considerable damage. His tendency to roam was hurting United, either he dropped too deep or he drifted far wide, leaving Rashford remote. Coming to his defensive duties, he looked jaded & only made two tackles the entire game. Against Burnley, Pogba made his presence known, as he looked the most menacing of the Devils. His diagonal balls were a treat to watch & should’ve won United the match had Ibrahimović been more clinical at the far post.
As the world’s most expensive player, scrutiny will be something Paul Pogba has to get used to. And as an admirer of Pogba’s game, I certainly hope he reaches his potential. It’s hard fitting into a Mourinho side without a proper preseason & he’s been playing catch-up ever since. Football needs players with that spark of brilliance that Pogba possesses. Given the correct amount of time to gel in I am confident he’ll justify his price tag. Let’s just hope Mourinho finds a way to utilize his prized asset.