Of course, if you have had a world record amount of money spent on you the pressure will be high. The microscopes will all be pointed at your every move, and every little mistake magnified for all to see. You will be picked apart and anything other than world-beating performances will make you appear a total waste of money. Paul Pogba is on the receiving end of all of this, he didn’t ask for it, but he is.
The Frenchman’s return to Old Trafford was celebrated by all United fans. Gasps, perhaps, at the price, but Pogba had become the most talked about footballer on the planet during his stint with Italian giants, Juventus. However inflated the tag was, Pogba had begun developing into a real talent and a talisman at his current side. He fit the bill perfectly at Old Trafford and had a point to prove following his debated exit under Sir Alex Ferguson. At just 23 the expectation was that he was the answer to all of the problems in Manchester United’s midfield and was the missing link that would provide the platform for greater things than the previous three seasons had garnered.
Fast forward to now and things aren’t quite working out for the young man. He has split the fan base into factions, those unwilling to criticise him and support him regardless, those willing to criticise but know there will be a world class player in his place sooner rather than later, and those that would happily see him sold. His performances have contributed to this divide. It is fair to say Pogba hasn’t shown himself in the best of lights in most matches. His showings against the top sides are sketchy at best, and in recent months it feels as though he is concentrating more on his brand than his football. That or the pressure is getting to him.
You may not have considered it until now, but you fall into one of the three categories. Myself, I’m in the second, I can criticise but know there is a world class player ready to burst onto the scene. How, you ask? The reams of statistics that back me up on it. To show, Pogba has been disappointing, but he has rated as the third best player in the league on his stats and the best central midfielder. He outdoes his foes in almost every category, from forward passes to interceptions he is leading the way in them all. Until the sending off Monday night you wouldn’t have known N’Golo Kante was playing, Pogba marked him out of London.
Excuses shouldn’t be made for anyone when they’re playing poorly. In spite of his excellent job for the first 40 minutes, following that he was poor. The defensive side of his game is still under scrutiny and his discipline in the position very much questioned. As much as I believe he will be world class there are a lot of questions to be answered by the recently turned 24-year-old. But there is plenty of time for him to come up with the goods – his prime is probably another two or three years away – and I’d rather he be doing that at United than plying his trade elsewhere again. Love him or hate him, rate him or loathe him, sick of the brand or not, we should all hope Pogba wants to continue his career at Old Trafford. He really would be the one that got away otherwise.