Over-priced, overrated, a waste of money: three things that Paul Pogba was branded as when he signed for Man United back in August last year. But, as the Frenchman makes an impact on his return from injury, we’re asking whether he was any of those things.
Of course, last year £89m was a hell of a lot of money, even for a footballer of his age and level, breaking the world record for a transfer fee at the time. Yet, with Moussa Dembele’s £130m move to Barcelona and Neymar’s £200m move to PSG meaning the record-fee has more than doubled since, Pogba’s fee now seems a far more reasonable price (not that you could ever truly justify paying someone £89,000,000 to play for your football club).
Pogba was certainly slow to settle in at Old Trafford, receiving more than his fair share of criticism over his first few months. He was told to “stop dancing and focus on his football”, along with many other things that I cannot put to a public audience. To be fair, it was clear that the huge price tag was playing on his mind for a while. He often tried unnecessary long passes, to no avail, and always seemed to either take too many risks or too few.
Part of the reason Pogba was criticised, I think, is because of his lack of goals and assists early on. Pogba’s reputation as a goal-scoring midfielder in Italy had come across to England, and when he failed to notch a single goal or assist in the first few games it sent doubts into United fan’s minds; “Not another Di Maria!”.
If Pogba came in as a reputation of being a replacement for Roy Keane, for example, a box-to-box midfielder there to break up attacks and move the team forward he wouldn’t have got so much of a bad press. Pogba is more of a cross between Paul Scholes, Roy Keane and N’golo Kante, not sticking especially to one certain midfield position, but being an indispensable asset in the middle of the park.
Pogba did settle in last season, proving to be a hugely important cog in the midfield, forming a vital partnership with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He began this season very strongly indeed, scoring a few goals, tacking on big assists and adding some power in the side to help break down other midfields.
However, the Frenchman’s hamstring injury early on in the Champions League game against Basel ruled him out for a few months. During this time United’s blistering form slumped, losing 2-1 to Huddersfield, 1-0 to Chelsea and falling 8 points behind their cross-town rivals, City, at the top of the table.
Pogba made his return this weekend, in a 4-1 win against Newcastle, bagging a brilliant assist for Anthony Martial, to level the game, tapping home a Marcus Rashford header to make it 3-1, and muscling the Newcastle side into submission.
United, during Pogba’s absence, lacked the muscle, flair and creativity that they had earlier on in the season. With him in midfield, you expected United to score and create, to the point where you would have to sculpt your game plan around the almost guarantee that you would concede at least once, yet, without him, the Red Devils were slower, more static and less creative, and relied almost entirely upon Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial to make the goals.
Also, was it a coincidence that when Pogba left, so did Lukaku’s goal scoring form, and when he returned, so did Lukaku’s goals? I think not. We know that the two players have a strong connection on and off the field, and Lukaku looked isolated up front over the last month or so. The biggest impact he had on the side was his headed assist for Anthony Martial to win the game against Tottenham, but now that Pogba was back, big Rom got a goal and set up one, thumping home in a one-on-one and crossing to Marcus Rashford to cushion for Paul Pogba.
So, how will Pogba’s return to United affect their title chances this season? Leave your opinion in the comments below.
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