Paul Pogba has started the 2021/22 season in great fashion with four assists in the 5-1 demolition of Leeds United in the first Premier League fixture at Old Trafford this season, also getting another assist in the 1-1 draw against Southampton at St Mary’s, which was largely positive, well apart from the result. However, it still means that United are undefeated on the road in 27 matches, which has seen the club match the same record as Arsenal which was set almost 17 years ago. If United avoid defeat away to Wolverhampton Wanderers this coming weekend, the record will be theirs.
Some say there is nothing to be positive about under the reign of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but there has been bags of positivity but it just does not register with the Ole Out brigade, who seem to moan about anything. I saw one of them suggest that it was ‘individual brilliance’ that saw United beat Leeds in the opening Premier League match of the season, but if it was anything else, it would have been Solskjaer’s fault for them. The excuses are becoming a joke, but then again, most of these people are a joke, let’s be honest.
Back to Pogba, he has been subject of a lot of speculation this summer with Paris Saint-Germain linked to him before the arrival of Lionel Messi, who left Barcelona as a free agent after the deal to re-sign the Argentinian was not ratified. That cost Pogba a move to the French capital, if the speculation was anything to go by. However, he does seem to be happy at United and has never actually suggested, not this summer anyway, that he wanted to leave United. It has been a few years since he announced that he wanted a fresh challenge.
Pogba will be a free agent in the summer of 2022 and it seems likely that he could leave United as a free agent for the second time in his career, which would be embarrassing for the club and Solskjaer will end up being blamed by the section of the so-called fanbase that they represent. It is not his fault and there will be someone to blame but it will be a Glazer or Ed Woodward as the way they have been running the club has been poor, not getting the players that previous managers wanted, always aiming for the cheapest option.
Imagine if during the years post-Sir Alex Ferguson that United had done things the way the managers of the club wanted at the time. Could the club be in a better position today? Of course, that is not an answer that anyone could give but would love to be able to see it out and see what happened. That is not going to happen though.
United have spent the best part of £1 billion on players since the summer of 2014, which most of has been wasted on players who did not fit into the club, did not want to be at the club or did not really make an impact. That just proves that the club needed a new identity, which is what they have under Solskjaer, whether you agree or not. There is a direction that the club is heading in, a plan for the now and the future and a level that the club aspires to become.
It has been better under Solskjaer that it was under Jose Mourinho, even though he won the FA Community Shield, the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League. If Solskjaer was the manager at the time, instead of Mourinho, United would be in a great place right now. Many supporters today do not have patience, which is worrying as having everything from the moment that you want it is not really worth it as you have not lied the journey. The journey is the majority of the experience. If you have everything from the start, what is the point of having it?
Despite Pogba being linked with an exit of the Old Trafford club this summer, Solskjaer recently confirmed to the media that he would still be a United player at the closure of the summer transfer window in a week’s time. The Mirror quoted the Norwegian manager as saying:
“Yes, I expect Paul to be here when the first of September comes.
“If you’ve got a five-year contract or a one-year contract, when you sign for Man United you have to rise to the challenge of performing on a consistent level.
“I’m not worried whatsoever that the length of any player’s contract is changing the level of their motivation and inspiration.
“You want to play well for your team, your team-mates, yourself, your family, every time you play. What I expect is that the attitude and the approach to every game is the right one.
“That we have the same focus, the right focus, the right professionalism and. With that, I have no worries about Paul whatsoever.”
When Pogba returned to United, which came four years after he walked away from United as a free agent in the summer of 2012, costing United £89 million in the summer of 2016, the player stated that he had unfinished business at the Old Trafford club. Obviously he wants to be playing for a club that will challenge for the Premier League title, push in both the Carabao Cup and the Emirates FA Cup and challenge to win the clubs fourth UEFA Champions League trophy. Any player would want that. However, with the Glazers at the club, that was never on the cards as money tops success for that family and that needs to change.
The rules of business states that to accumulate you need to speculate and the Glazer’s just seem to be interested in accumulating and not really speculating. Yes, monty has been spent over the years but the plan of action in where that money was spent was not the best. It looked like someone who did not know about football was splurging money on players that he thought would fit the squad rather than players that would actually fit into the squad, I guess that is Ed Woodward for you.
You cannot blame Pogba for being unhappy that United were not challenging and were left well behind Manchester City, who will moan about other clubs spending large transfer fees on players and suggest that they cannot afford to do that, all of a sudden splurging £100 million on Jack Grealish and interested in Harry Kane, who will cost £150 million. All this from a club who has one of the best teams in the Premier League, despite the vast majority of players being bought to make the squad better, rather than being coached to make the squad better. If City spent more time on bringing through youth rather than opening the chequebook every transfer window, they might earn more respect in the game.
Pogba will want to challenge for all the best trophies in club football. He has already reached the pinnacle in international football, winning the FIFA World Cup with France in the summer of 2018, but falling short in Euro 2020 this summer. At Juventus, Pogba won the Series A title each season he was at the club, also winning two Coppa Italia’s and Supercoppa Italiana’s. Coming back to United, a club he had spent three seasons with, mostly playing academy football, he wanted to achieve success with the club, which came in his first season but soon faltered as the owners of the club did not really back Mourinho, which on hindsight may have been right as he was sacked during his third season managing the club.
Italian journalist, Fabrizio Romano has recently confirmed that United and Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, who is a very vocal agent and does not care what he says and who to, have been in contact again regarding a new contract for Pogba. There is no agreement yet and nothing to suggest that there will be but with the arrival of Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, Pogba might see the chances of United working towards winning a Premier League title, amongst other things as more likely that it was without them at the club.
United need to secure the defence, fix a problem in the midfield and work out the attack to win things. As Sir Alex Ferguson once said; “attack wins you games, defence wins you titles”. This could be the season that something starts for United and with Pogba in the form he is in, looking happy on the pitch, he could be a player that could help United deliver what has been missing since the 2012/13 season – a Premier League title. The club has not lifted the Emirates FA Cup since Louis van Gaal’s last season at the club (2015/16) which saw his fate days later as he was himself sacked.
With five assists to his name, which has gone a long way to bettering his achievements last season which saw him score six goals and nine assists in 42 appearances. With five assists in two appearances this season so far, it is likely that he will beat the number of assists he obtained last season. If he can bring 10-15 goals this season, added to what Bruno Fernandes could achieve, putting the ball into the box for the likes of Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood and even Anthony Martial, who has been in dire form in the two matches he has been involved in, something could well be cooking at United. If Pogba ends up staying at United, long-term, it is likely that with the squad the club has, trophies are not far away as long as the work is done on the pitch with nobody hiding this time. Hopefully he can see this for himself but the 2021/22 season could be his best yet at the Old Trafford club.
Written by John Walker