Paul Parker compares Pogba to Mikel – but does he have a point?

Paul Pogba

Paul Parker has condemned Manchester United’s decision to sign Paul Pogba, criticising the world-record fee and the role the player may have in Jose Mourinho’s new-look team. The former United defender suggests United are ’embarrassed’ by the transfer and that he won’t fit into the team. Parker, speaking exclusively to 888Sport, said:

“If United had signed Messi for a hundred million not many would have complained. The same with Ronaldo who scores goals and has a presence that scares teams. With Pogba you do wonder when you look at his style of play for Juventus can he play that way for Manchester United? Where is he going to play? It would be a waste if it’s in a holding role. If he plays behind Ibrahimovic that puts Wayne Rooney in doubt and Rooney has to play – not that he deserves a place but they have to play him. So it’s a difficult situation.

“I think United in certain quarters are quite embarrassed by how much they’ve had to pay for him but did he do enough in his three seasons at Juventus to warrant that fee? The answer is no, not at all and you have to wonder why Real Madrid disappeared very quickly. They don’t get outbid.”

Parker’s suggestion that Pogba should not command such a transfer fee because he does not score the same number of goals as Messi or Ronaldo is absurd. As a midfielder, Pogba’s contribution to the game should be judged on his ability to control the tempo of the game, his ability to pass the ball or win the ball back and whether he can create chances for his teammates. He won’t score the same goals as Messi or Ronaldo, so why compare apples and oranges? Speaking of comparisons, Parker went on to compare Pogba to former United stars and questioned whether or not he would be good enough to play in United’s midfield.

“Can he be as good as Roy Keane or Bryan Robson? I wonder about him playing that midfield role. I worry about him making tackles and getting across to close players down because he is rangy. He doesn’t have quick feet and his game is about going to ground. That’s going to be a problem. In a holding position it would be a waste because he’s not a Makelele or even a John Obi Mikel because one thing Mikel can do is close people down.

“Pogba can get forward, and score goals, and pass the ball but in a high-tempo game he won’t be very good in a deep role. We saw that in the Euros where he looked lost for long periods of games when France didn’t have the ball. So when United don’t have the ball what’s he going to be like? Fellaini can’t do that either. Or Rooney. They can’t get around.  Behind Ibrahimovic and Martial there will be changes because there is no way that midfield can last.”

Comments like Parker’s are infuriating. He has chosen to compare Pogba to two of the greatest midfielders United have ever seen; Bryan Robson and Roy Keane. The reason they are the subject of comparison is precisely why they should never be used in comparison. They were so talented, so influential and so unique as individual players that they could never be replaced. To suggest that Paul Pogba should suddenly change his skill set and become a completely different player just because he is a Manchester United player is absurd. He won’t ever be Robson or Keane, but that’s perfectly fine. He’s Paul Pogba and will bring his own qualities to his new team.

It is very difficult not to completely tear Parker’s comments apart word for word because so much of what he has said in this interview seems  ill-thought out and poorly researched. To describe Pogba as not having quick feet suggests he has rarely watched him play, either as a youth player at United or over the past four (although Parker claims it was three) seasons at Juventus. Pogba is a powerful midfielder with the ability to take a player on and it is his trickery and technical ability that set him apart from the other top midfielder players.

To make matters worse, Parker’s comparison between Pogba and John Obi Mikel is frankly ridiculous; Pogba scored more goals last season than Mikel has scored in 10 seasons at Chelsea. They are entirely different players and, with no disrespect to Mikel, Pogba is on a different level to the Nigerian in terms of his footballing ability.

Paul Parker has a great personal history with Manchester United. On the pitch, he was very successful. Off it, he is clearly a fan who is heavily invested in the future success of the team. Any doubts surrounding the suitably of a player who cost £90m are understandable, but it appears that Parker has gone too far in his criticism of the Frenchman. To reduce this transfer to statistics and price is to miss the whole point of this terrific signing. Instead of asking ‘is Pogba worth £90m?’ we should be asking ‘will Pogba improve Manchester United?’ The answer is a definitive yes, so why does anything else matter?

Read the full 888sport interview with Paul Parker, including his thoughts on why this is a defining season for ‘overweight’ Rooney and whether Pogba will live up to his price-tag

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