Unpopular Opinion: Manchester United are better off without Paul Pogba
- Following the arrival of Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United should let Paul Pogba go in the summer and reinvest the money in other players.
Footballers returning to their boyhood clubs for a second spell has become a common sight in the years gone by. From Andrea Pirlo to Thierry Henry, a number of players have opted for a second innings at their former clubs. But even by those standards, Paul Pogba’s return to Manchester United from Juventus dominated the headlines back in 2016.
An unhappy reunion
Since leaving United in 2012, Pogba had blossomed into one of Europe’s finest young talents at the Italian club and proved that United had made a huge mistake in letting him leave in the first place. In fact, United were so desperate to rectify their mistake that they paid Juventus a then-world record transfer fee of €105 million to re-sign him.
From a tactical point of view, the Manchester United hierarchy saw Pogba as the perfect talisman who would eventually help the Red Devils find their lost glory. The Frenchman was touted to be the one around whom United would have built their squad and put an end to what had been a turbulent period since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
However, four years into Pogba’s second tenure at United, it is safe to say that it has been an unhappy reunion for both, the player and the club. The vast majority of Pogba’s performances for United in the last four years have been anything but talismanic. This by no means implies that Pogba is solely responsible for his struggles at the Old Trafford based outfit.
United themselves have been far from consistent in any department in the recent past. In addition to this, injuries have not been too kind to the midfielder as he has often been plagued with some injury or the other in the last four years.
But injuries are part and parcel of football and that’s only a part of the reason why some fans and pundits have grown frustrated with Pogba. Though the 26-year-old has shown fleeting glimpses of his abilities, (like his performance in the Manchester derby in 2018), he has not been able to produce the same level of performance on a regular basis. Perhaps a bit of United’s inconsistency has rubbed off on him as well.
But the most frustrating thing about Pogba is the fact that there have been times where he has seemed simply disinterested in playing for the club. And this becomes even more evident when the player constantly flirts with the possibility of leaving the club. Every time the transfer window opens, the rumour mills go into overdrive with news about Pogba’s possible departure.
What’s probably more annoying for Ole Gunnar Solskjær is that the player’s future has become a hot topic for discussion in the media. In fact, news about Pogba’s future has overshadowed United’s performances and results on more than one occasion this season itself.
The best among the rest
Given all the baggage that Pogba comes with, the question that needs to be asked is that why does he walk into the Manchester United team when he is fit to play? The answer to that seemingly complex question is a fairly simple one. Despite all the baggage, Pogba still remains United’s most complete midfielder: he has got the ability to get up and down the pitch, the ability to pick a pass and an undeniable eye for goal.
Juan Mata would perhaps be the only other midfielder in the United side to possess the above-mentioned qualities. However, owing to his relatively senior age, the Spaniard does not possess the ability to run the length of the pitch and that leaves Pogba in a league of his own. Manchester United fans across the globe have spent a large part of the last four years hoping for Pogba to recreate his Juventus form in a United shirt, but alas, the wait still goes on.
As far as the larger picture is concerned, the Red Devils have desperately lacked creativity whenever Pogba has not played or has not been able to stamp his authority on the game. And though Solskjær has tried to rectify this by using different players, no one has been able to fill that void.
Simply put, the only reason why Pogba makes the United lineup when he is fit is more in hope rather than expectation of him having a good day. But the problem for United is that his good days have been few and far in between over the last few seasons.
Bruno Fernandes’s arrival is the last nail in Paul Pogba’s coffin at Manchester United
United finally managed to sign Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon in January after a transfer saga that lasted the entire length of the winter transfer window. Fortunately, the Portuguese playmaker has had an instant impact at United and he has established himself as their talisman in just over a month’s time. In fact, Fernandes is proving to be everything that United hoped Pogba would be: a playmaker, talisman and most importantly, a leader.
In addition to this, the one aspect of his game where Fernandes beats Pogba all ends up is the kind of consistency he has shown since joining the club. Truth be told, the 25-year-old has been more consistent in one month at the club than Pogba has been in the last four years. Statistically speaking, Pogba has featured just eight times for Solskjær’s men this season in all competitions and managed just two assists in that period. Meanwhile, Fernandes has featured 6 times in all competitions so far and has racked up 3 goals and 1 assist already.
On current form, Fernandes can walk into any the starting eleven of any club in the world, let alone the present Manchester United side. And though the prospect of Fernandes and Pogba playing together may seem like a tantalising one, once the former Juventus man does return from injury, Solskjær would have to replace one of Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay or Juan Mata in order to fit the Frenchman and none of these three players deserves to be axed on the basis of their contributions in Pogba’s absence this season.
However, Pogba is certain to feature for Solskjær’s men before the end of the season, but not even the most experienced of fortunetellers will not be brave enough to predict what to expect from him. The best way United can solve the Pogba conundrum would be let go of the 2018 world cup-winner in the summer and invest that money in other players who will be genuinely interested in playing for the club. The Red Devils have been linked with moves for Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish and Harry Kane in the summer and the letting go of Pogba would be the first step in that direction.Published 07 Mar 2020, 16:31 IST