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Player profile

Position

6

Paul Pogba

Midfielder Center

Goals rank

19Zlatan Ibrahimovic

7Paul Pogba

0David De Gea

0Joel Castro Pereira

0Axel Tuanzebe

Appearances rank

126David De Gea

31Zlatan Ibrahimovic

30Paul Pogba

3Timothy Fosu-Mensah

1Joel Castro Pereira

Discipline

Yellow cards: 7

Fouls Won: 61

Red cards: 0

Fouls Conceded: 58

profile

Paul Pogba needs no introduction to Manchester United fans, having learned his trade at the club before blossoming at Juventus into a world-class midfielder.

With his (seemingly ever-changing) shaved hairstyles, sharp cheekbones and long limbs, he is a striking figure. A footballing icon instantly recognisable to millions worldwide, he’s clearly capable of handling his superstar status. When he replaced Paul Scholes during the United legend’s testimonial in August of 2011, it felt like a passing of the baton and that has ended up being the case – albeit via a route few could ever have envisaged.

The Frenchman, born in Lagny-sur-Marne on the outskirts of Paris, started to attract attention as a schoolboy with Le Havre with United winning the battle for his signature. It was an inspired piece of scouting as it was soon evident he was a player of some promise.

A key member of the Under-18 team, he was a driving force in the FA Youth Cup-winning side of 2011 under Paul McGuinness, despite being controversially sent off in the tie with Liverpool when receiving a second yellow card for pausing during his run-up to taking a penalty. In the semi-final first leg against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, he was outstanding.

Progress in the Reserves naturally followed and, although he had previously made the first-team squad for the FA Cup tie against Crawley Town, he enjoyed his long-awaited senior debut against Leeds United in the League Cup. Two more appearances in the same competition followed before a league bow against Stoke City at the end of January 2012.

By then, there was already much speculation that the youngster was rejecting the club’s offer to extend his contract in order to facilitate a move to Juventus. Although he also featured three more times, including in the Europa League against Ander Herrera’s Athletic Club, it was no surprise when Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed the fears in July that the Frenchman was bound for Turin.

It was a big decision for the then 19-year-old and not one he would have taken lightly. From a United perspective, it could be argued it was the wrong one. He declared earlier in 2016: “I really miss Manchester because it’s where I made the most of my teenage years and I had lots of friends there. It’s a different culture. I found they’re more open than French people. I was in digs with a family and they treated me like their son.”

After signing a four-year deal with his new club, Pogba wasted little time in proving his worth in Serie A, helping the Bianconeri win the title and scoring some spectacular goals in the process. The plaudits kept coming. He won the Golden Boy award in 2013 for the best Under-21 player in Europe, the Under-20 World Cup with France and the Golden Ball as the tournament’s star man in the same year.

Didier Deschamps inevitably promoted him to the full France squad and he earned a place at the 2014 World Cup finals, scoring against Nigeria and landing the prize for the best young player at the tournament. The success continued domestically with Juventus and the 2015/16 season was his fourth successive Scudetto triumph at the club. He also appeared in the 2015 Champions League final as Barcelona won 3-1 in Berlin.

“I want to be the midfielder who can do everything, and at the highest levels,” he said. “Shooting, dribbling, scoring, defending.” Never lacking in confidence, the star was aiming only higher and pushing himself to reach the top echelons of the game. He makes no secret that his ultimate goal is to lift the Ballon d’Or.

Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri used Pogba in a creative role in 2015/16 as he took on the no.10 jersey and thrived with added attacking responsibility. Hence, it was a little surprising when Deschamps opted to play him in a deeper role in the Euro 2016 final against Portugal – particularly considering his masterful skill in setting up the clinching goal for Antoine Griezmann in the semi-final against Germany when pushed further up the field.

Pogba could still hold his head high after Les Bleus came so close to securing an emotional triumph on home soil and, at 23, the big games will keep on coming for him. The marvellous news for everybody from Old Trafford is this will happen, belatedly, with United as well as his country. The superstar is back and ready for unfinished business with the Reds.

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