Paul Pogba summed up the overall feeling about his time at Manchester United fairly neatly in a latest interview with French newspaper Le Figaro.
“It’s important to be trustworthy, the final 5 years haven’t happy me – actually in no way.”
When he gave the interview, it was just below 5 years since Pogba opened the scoring for United of their Europa League last victory towards Ajax.
That marked the top of his first season since a much-hyped return to Previous Trafford, when United paid a then-world record £89m to convey again a participant that they had of their academy however had misplaced on a free switch to Juventus after Sir Alex Ferguson refused to supply Pogba’s controversial agent Mino Raiola any ensures about how a lot game-time the participant would get.
However United have received nothing since. Pogba leaves Old Trafford for a second time, six prime years of his membership soccer profession unfulfilled.
“This 12 months it’s lifeless,” stated Pogba in his latest interview. “We is not going to win something. I need to win trophies.”
So the place did all of it go flawed?
A watch-watering deal
‘Pogback’, trumpeted the membership’s social media channels on 9 August, 2016. “I am again,” stated Pogba, on the finish of a brilliantly produced 26-second video clip confirming his arrival. With a collaboration with British rap artist Stormzy as properly, this was a really fashionable switch.
The actual fact Pogba was, and stays, considered one of Adidas’ highest-profile athletes and was sealing a union with United, who had been simply 12 months into their very own 10-year take care of the German sportswear big, meant the deal made sense commercially.
New supervisor Jose Mourinho wished him. And for chief government Ed Woodward, beginning to really feel the warmth after sacking two managers, it made sense too.
This was an opportunity to proper Ferguson’s flawed, to show United may entice high-profile gamers and convey an academy graduate again into the fold.
Nonetheless, there was a heavy worth to pay. Raiola was far too shrewd an operator to let or not it’s some other approach.
In accordance with info put into the general public area by the Football Leaks website, which has by no means been contested at Previous Trafford, Pogba’s contract was a fundamental £7.75m-a-year. A loyalty bonus of £3.75m-a-year was additionally included. If United certified for the Champions League, Pogba netted an additional £1.85m. As well as, Pogba had a £3m-a-year picture rights deal. Raiola himself was paid an astonishing £41m.
That is what United had been signing as much as by bringing Paul Pogba again to the membership.
The place do you play him?
This nonetheless feels unbelievable, however if you happen to journey again by way of Pogba’s time at United, there is no such thing as a constant thread for the place Pogba ought to be used.
As a part of a deep-lying two man midfield? On the left of a 3? As a quantity 10? Extensive of a extra superior attacking unit past two holders?
It’s obvious that even with France – with whom he received the 2018 World Cup – Pogba’s strengths are offensive. His management and vary of passing is world class. If he runs from deep, he’s a serious risk. However he wants cowl. Defensively he could be a legal responsibility.
But in that first season, when Pogba was given licence to roam ahead, very often Zlatan Ibrahimovic was dropping again into the identical areas the Frenchman wished to occupy.
On the time, it felt like a teething downside and one thing that might be sorted out naturally given the Swede’s age meant he was hardly prone to be Pogba’s team-mate for lengthy.
However United by no means discovered an enough resolution. Even with out Ibrahimovic, their main offensive gamers: Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, favored to function in the identical areas the place Pogba excels.
If he dropped deep, it uncovered United’s midfield. The axis of Fred and Scott McTominay has been derided. Neither have wherever near Pogba’s expertise. However Pogba merely doesn’t run arduous sufficient, typically sufficient to take considered one of them out with out United being susceptible to getting fully overrun.
“It is easy with France, I play and I play in my place – I do know my position and I really feel the boldness of the coach and the gamers,” Pogba instructed Le Figaro. “It is regular to really feel a distinction at Manchester United as a result of it is arduous to be constant while you typically have a change to your place, or the staff system, or your companions.”
An already unsatisfactory state of affairs was exacerbated by the off-field points Pogba introduced.
Jose Mourinho stripped Pogba of the vice-captaincy at United in September 2019 after the Frenchman had criticised his ways. By the point Mourinho took cost for the ultimate time – at Liverpool three months later – his costliest signing was unused on the bench.
Mourinho’s exit appeared to sign Pogba and his team-mates had received an influence battle. A ‘Caption This’ submit on Pogba’s Twitter feed instantly after the announcement definitely indicated so and drew a stinging rebuke from former United skipper Gary Neville.
For some time concord broke out as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer loved an prolonged honeymoon interval because the Portuguese’s successor. However additional points weren’t distant.
Raiola was pleased to stir the pot on Pogba’s behalf, saying he had spoken to Juventus a few return early in 2020, then getting right into a spat with Solskjaer when he successfully stated what occurred to the Frenchman was not one of the super-agent’s enterprise as a result of he was contracted to United.
The probabilities are, Solskjaer was able to sanction a switch at that time. However when the pandemic hit, United knew they’d get nothing just like the participant’s worth in a price, so that they stored Pogba and tried to barter a contract extension to guard their asset. It did not work.
A tragic finish
Pogba made 20 Premier League appearances in his last season as a United participant. He scored as soon as – towards Burnley – and claimed 9 assists. 4 of them got here within the opening recreation towards Leeds.
That match at Previous Trafford is considered one of Pogba’s stand-out United moments. The well-known 3-2 comeback win at Manchester Metropolis in 2018, when he scored twice, was one other. That Europa League last towards Ajax and his volleyed winner at Burnley two seasons in the past had been others.
However they had been fleeting moments. Every harm absence got here with the suspicion amongst some followers that Pogba not wished to play for the membership.
When he left the sector after what turned out to be his final look for United, towards Liverpool in April, he was jeered off by his personal supporters.
And now it’s over.