Paul Pogba- the one that got away
On the day Ravel Morrison swapped Old Trafford for Upton Park, United entertained Stoke City at their fortress. The team put by Sir Alex was unsurprisingly strong and well-balanced. The bench was decent, it had a couple of amateurs, and one of them was the French midfielder: Paul Pogba. The 19-year-old, who was brought to Old Trafford at the tender age of 16 from Le Havre. Having made rapid strides through the academy in Manchester, he was also a massive influence in the Youth Side that won the FA youth Cup in the 2010-11 season. He was rightly awarded for his exploits, when he was included in the frame of the first team for the following campaign. By then, United fans were already sweating over the Ravel Morrison saga – seeing one of the exquisitely talented youngsters leave the club is a bitter pill to swallow for any fan.
With the ‘trouble kid’ seemingly destined to leave Manchester, fans had now pinned their hopes on young Pogba. United were cruising against a hapless Stoke, with a comfortable 2 goal lead in their favour. And then Fergie decided to give his trump-card a chance; Carrick was brought off and Pogba was given a chance to showcase himself to 70,000 odd Mancunians. And just to show what Ravel Morrison had decided to let go, United faithful cheered every touch that Pogba got on the ball. A small example of what was expected from this kid with a heavily burgeoning reputation.
Nearly 9 months on from that, and Paul Pogba put in a masterclass at the Juventus Arena, taming and twisting the Bologna midfield. A stoppage time winner reminded everyone of his talent, and forced Sir Alex to consider him as one ‘that got away.’
Pogba’s talent was never in question, the young midfielder has a muscular build at his tender age, can pick a pass and also has the capability of scoring the odd screamer with a not so tender right foot. United scouts had worked their socks off in acquiring Pogba from Le Havre, a move which was subsequently reported to FIFA by Pogba’s parent club on grounds that “player’s head was turned by money.” The appeal was over-ruled and United had their boy.
Pogba’s journey in Manchester was nothing short of a success. The boy made rapid strides, and comparisons to established world class talent were inevitable. Ex- United midfielder Paddy Crerand went to the extent of admitting that Pogba could turn out to be better than Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira. “I think he’s absolutely terrific,” bemoaned Paddy, as Pogba left United for pastures new, because of ‘broken promises’ by his mentor – Sir Alex. He is probably the first youngster that Sir Alex and his backroom staff wanted to keep hold off desperately, and in spite of their best efforts, Pogba did eventually get away from their grasp.
The youngster has always shown confidence, and when that confidence got the backing of Conte’s faith, results started to show. Pogba has been a revelation in Turin, putting in many noteworthy performances, with the high point undoubtedly being the crafty goal he scored against rivals Napoli, to ensure Juve’s unbeaten run lasted another week. A week later, Pogba put in an absolute master-class against Bologna, and as the Guardian reads, “Juventus’s young midfielder was no phantom menace as he blew Bologna away with a match-winning performance”
In the game against Bologna, Pogba headed in a corner within the first 15 minutes, which was rightly disallowed for his shove on former Juventus right back, Marco Motta. Moments later, a riveting left foot strike crashed off the post. A hurricane had hit the Bologna rear guard. A Sandy which was named ‘Paul Pogba.’ In the second half, a delicate chip to Emmanule Giaccherini resulted in the opening goal of the match, as the Italian headed the ball across the face of goal for Fabio Quaglirelia to head home. And this was not it. Two minutes into extra time, Pogba rose above all and headed home a cross from Seb Giovinco, who himself is undergoing a renaissance of sorts in a Juventus jersey.
At present, United lack dynamism in midfield; there are players who offer everything in attack but nothing in defense, and players who contribute in defense, but have a nose-break if asked to attack. And fortunately or unfortunately, Pogba has a knack for both aspects of the game – he is the arch-typical ‘Box to Box’ midfielder, with an imposing physique much in the mould of Patrick Vieria and the present day Yaya Toure. He is the type of player that has gone missing at Old Trafford since Captain Marvel, Roy Keane left the club.
With Juventus competing on all 3 fronts this season, Conte needs depth in disposal. The magnificent trio of Vidal, Pirlo and Marchisio do need backups to keep them fresh for the ‘crunch ties.’ Given the current inflation in the market, quality does not come without a hefty premium; but with the acquisition of Paul Pogba for a unitary million, Marotta has undoubtedly pulled a rabbit out of the hat by getting quality at a cheap price.