Paul Pogba: The right man at the wrong time for Manchester United?

With just 12 months left on his contract, and PSG seemingly sounding out a potential move, Paul Pogba’s future is once again a hot topic of conversation at Old Trafford.

While transfer rumours are nothing new in football, few personas in the game attract attention quite like the Frenchman. Now, with no breakthrough in contract talks so far, Manchester United could finally engage with potential suitors or face the prospect of a free transfer next year.

Given the sizeable investment in the finally-confirmed Jadon Sancho, combined with the financial impact of the pandemic, that latter option is almost certainly one the club won’t want to explore.

Pogba’s reputation among United fans is a complicated one. His return to the club five years ago for a cool £89m was meant to signal a shift after the incredibly uninspiring few years that followed Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure. On the most part though, that didn’t materialise.

Moments of brilliance have often been marred with inconsistencies, though to solely place the blame on the midfielder would be incredibly naive. Footballing opinions are often blinded by emotions and sensationalist headlines, remove some of that and if rumours of a desired move are true, then maybe it’s more justified than many would have you believe.

At Juventus, Pogba featured in the the Serie A Team of the Season for three years on the bounce, made it into the UEFA Team of the Year, the FIFPro World 11 and earned the Golden Boy award.

On the international stage we’ve seen him consistently excel; a standout player at the last three major tournaments, with a World Cup winners medal to back up those elite performances. These things don’t happen if you’re not a very, very good footballer.

Did Manchester United fail Paul Pogba?

The reality is that Manchester United consistently let the 29-year-old down in the wake of his signing. A series of underwhelming arrivals and failures to fix long-term problem areas in the starting XI led to a painfully fractured-looking side that no player in the world could have single-handedly solved.

In fact, it’s only in the last year we’ve seen the emergence of something that resembles a long-term transfer strategy and a sense of identity return to the club. However, now five years on and his peek years spent with just a Europa League trophy to show for it, is it any wonder frustrations may have crept in?

Alongside the solidity of N’Golo Kante in the France side, we’ve seen time and time again the sheer genius that he possesses. Three years have now passed since the 2018 World Cup, a competition in which we arguably saw the best version of Pogba to date and a showing that almost definitely should have seen him crowned the campaign’s best player.

Despite that clearly successful combination, defensive midfield remains a strikingly obvious issue for the Red Devils. Instead fans have had to watch one of the most talented players in world football attempt to fill multiple roles, often at the same time and to his own detriment. Your go-to playmaker can’t be asked to be a constant defensive presence and a left-sided midfielder can’t be expected to pick up the ball and kickstart attacks from his own half – so far, both are concepts that United have failed to grasp.

This isn’t to say Pogba is absent of any individual blame. Even his biggest advocates would struggle to deny there are often costly lapses in concentration. Again though, the safety net of a decent holding midfielder would quickly make those mistakes far less costly, and we’d soon forget about them.

With a move for Rennes’ breakout star Eduaro Camavinga heavily rumoured, perhaps it’s a step in the right direction for United. It’s tough to fault any of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s signings so far and the side is no doubt in its best place since Ferguson’s retirement. That being said, as Pogba approaches 30 is it all too little, too late for him on an individual level?

Featured image credit: Getty