Paul Pogba is an unbelievable footballer. He proved that at Juventus and he’s proved it time and time again with the French national team.
Since his return to the club he grew up with, that sentiment hasn’t always been quite as clear-cut. Inconsistent performances have faced extra scrutiny thanks largely to mistimed outbursts from his controversial and outspoken agent.
From the moment Pogba rejoined, it’s been apparent that the media have wanted nothing more than to see him flop. As has so often been the case down the years, United personas often face extra attention from tabloids, and it’s been no different for the 27-year-old.
Before Christmas, following another Raiola outburst, it seemed the writing was on the wall. United would cut their losses and attempt to get back at least some of what they paid Juventus in 2016.
Typically though, Pogba has since turned in what many would call the most consistent run of performances in his second stint with the club, a stint that has seen his side return to the top of the Premier League table.
Complaints over his performances have generally centred around a lack of shouldering responsibility. A player that good, and who cost so much money, could never simply be a luxury.
It’s been a very welcome sight then, over the last few weeks seeing a much more physical, dominant Paul Pogba in the centre of midfield. Brushing aside opposing players, out-jumping and and out-working them.
So where does that leave a player that looked to have one foot out the door just one month ago?
In the simplest possible terms, it feels very much like Pogba’s future will be defined by whether or not United’s unlikely title charge proves to be a genuine one.
There’s two ways to look at the whole situation. One is that Pogba simply hasn’t stepped up, but that would be an extremely simplistic take on someone who has appeared in multiple FIFA Teams of the Year and has played a leading role in a nation’s World Cup victory.
Before Solskjaer stepped in, the club’s transfer strategy was simply non-existent. His signing should have ushered in a new era at Old Trafford, it became quickly apparent that wasn’t going to be the case though. He had traded a place in a fine Juventus side where trophies and Champions League status were guaranteed, for a team repeatedly let down by its hierarchy. It would be naive to think that the situation wouldn’t have frustrated a player who was at the peak of his career, only to see his ambitions unmatched by the club.
Fast-forward to now, and United have clearly regained at least some of that identity that saw them dominate the English game for so many years. Something that Solskjaer deserves more credit that he’ll ever be given for.
Realistically, it would have been far better if it was actually this year that Pogba had signed. He’s someone you add to an established team to take them to the next level. Sadly that established team wasn’t there at the time he returned, and didn’t show signs of materialising in the years that followed.
Of course club finances could also influence his future. With a contract running until 2022, whoever wants to pry him away will likely have to stump up a decent sum, which in pandemic times, could be much trickier prospect.
For the sake of argument, add into the equation that so far, United are very much in the title race, what if they go the distance? Even going close could be another factor that tips the scales towards him staying.
Is it too far gone? Has his mind already been made up? Are these performances his parting gift and a way to restore his value? Only he will know. What is clear though, is that in a far more solid looking midfield, with genuine options for rotation, United could finally have the formula to get the Paul Pogba they wanted five years ago.
Fans can only hope it’s not too little, too late.
Featured image credit: Getty