Whether it was Scholes’ fault or not, losing Pogba will haunt United
This summer Manchester United will dive into the transfer market with a clearly set out plan of who and what to buy.
Had it not been for Spanish stopper David De Gea, United may not find themselves in the Champions League places so a top quality center-back is priority. Mats Hummels has been identified and is likely to come in during the summer, but there are other problem areas on the pitch.
A right back will need to be brought in, possibly a new keeper if reports of a De Gea departure are to be believed and even a new striker could be on the cards but one area that has troubled United and even now, despite attention in the past 2 summers, looks a problem is central midfield.
Manchester United have struggled for quality in the middle of the park for years. Once Keane left, Carrick was brought in and whilst a player of immense quality himself, it’s what has followed that has been the problem.
First United tried Owen Hargreaves and seemed to get it right although cameos on the wing and at full back were also prominent features in his debut season. After that though things went awry as injury robbed Hargreaves of a United career. There were false dawns in Anderson and Cleverley but still it took until summer 2013 and the appointment of David Moyes for United to try and sign a new central midfielder in Marouane Fellaini who, despite being a central midfielder, couldn’t play in central midfield.
The following summer we doubled up, with utility man Daley Blind who’s lack of pace and mobility has shown him up in the Premier League and Ander Herrera, a player that restored fan’s faith that United do actually know what a quality central midfielder is..
Between Hargreaves and Fellaini though lies a tale of incredible misfortune that fans as well as the club will rue forever, the escape of Paul Pogba.
Now United have missed out on players before but nothing like this, in the sense that the player was theirs already and that the player will likely go on to become one of, if not, the best players in the game.
It’s a tale that’s been told a million times already so I won’t go into it again but the basics are that Pogba, grew fed up of waiting for his chance in the first team and fled to Juventus where he is now fulfilling his potential. He cites a game against Blackburn on New Years Eve 2011 as the catalyst for his move away from United where an injury-hit United lined up with Ji Sung Park and right back Rafael in the middle of the park, whilst he sat on the bench and when you put it like that you can see why he wanted out.
But a new voice has been added to the narrative further strengthening his case that a move was the best thing for his career.
At the start of 2012, with United facing pressure from rivals Man City for the title, Sir Alex took the bold step of bring Paul Scholes out of retirement. The success of the move is debatable, he galvanised the side as United improved but they still saw City lift the title and the return could also have inadvertently driven Pogba out of Old Trafford, something Scholes himself acknowledges in his column for The Independent:
“Would it have been any different if I had not come back for that last 18 months? I think my return to the team, and the game time Paul got, was a small part of it.”
Pogba has already stated that the game against Blackburn helped him make up his mind, prior to Scholes’ return, but seeing the ginger midfielder back at the club and in the team won’t have filled him in confidence that he had a place in the team.
Aged 19 Pogba would have wanted to be playing and even though Scholes, a coach with the u21s before he resumed playing, said that his form for Warren Joyce’s young United side didn’t warrant a place in the first team, a player of that immense quality shouldn’t have been kept on such a short leash.
Pogba made a handful of appearances for United in throw away games, when in all reality he should have gone on and become a starter and a potential great, especially with the likes of Tom Cleverley and Anderson getting chances. His talent was obvious for all to see and Scholes has also stated that his attitude and application were spot on too.
Instead United find themselves in a position where a player like Pogba would be the difference of fighting for top 4 and fighting for the title but will have to spend well in excess of £50m to secure his services.
People make mistakes in football all the time, United aren’t the first and won’t be the last to lose a talented young player but with United in the market for a central midfielder, letting Pogba slip though their fingers is a spectre that could hang over their heads as he continues on his path to certain stardom.