When Paul Pogba returned to Manchester United in 2016 for a then-world record fee of £89 million, it was the homecoming that the supporters dreamt of. Having left the club in 2012, Pogba had established himself as one of the best midfielders on the planets in his four seasons at Juventus, putting himself on the wishlist of every team on the planet.
But the prospect of returning home under newly-appointed manager Jose Mourinho to play alongside recently acquired Zlatan Ibrahimovic was simply too tantalising for Pogba to turn down. Moreover, United were the only club willing to shell out Juventus' demand of a world-record fee for their maverick midfielder and after a long-drawn-out saga that stretched into August, the reunion happened. Paul Pogba went back home to pull a club out of its rut and lead them back to the top… But alas, it has been anything but a happy marriage.
In the four seasons in Pogba’s second spell at Manchester United, the club has finished in the top four just twice and finished sixth twice as well. They have won just two trophies, both of which came in Pogba’s first season under Mourinho, while all their rivals have either won just as many trophies or have won the biggest prizes in club football.
Pogba himself has been a shadow of the player that he was at Juventus. In 175 matches, Pogba has scored 33 goals and assisted 35, and outside of the honeymoon period that he enjoyed in the early months under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Frenchman has been inconsistent and lackadaisical in his approach on the field.
United have tried everything to get the best out of Pogba. They have tried a variety of formations to fit their talented Frenchmen, they have dabbled with personnel, signing the likes of Nemanja Matic and Fred to ease Pogba’s defensive duties and then went on and signed Bruno Fernandes to alleviate the pressure of creating chances from the midfield.
Despite all that, Pogba is yet to establish himself as the centrepiece of the Manchester United puzzle. Fernandes, who was brought in to compliment Pogba, has taken over the mantle of leading the side by example and has quickly become a fan-favourite at the club, reducing the Frenchman to the stepchild of the family.
Pogba’s own comments of wanting ‘a new challenge’ and calling Real Madrid ‘a dream club’ have further disillusioned the fans about his commitment to the club. With him not performing upto the standards expected and then him seemingly flirting with other clubs is simply unacceptable to the Old Trafford faithful.
Pogba’s current contract runs up till 2022. The club have been in constant negotiations with his agent to extend his stay, but it seems rather redundant to do so. The Frenchman clearly isn’t 100% committed to the club and Bruno Fernandes has become the lynchpin that the club hoped Pogba would.
Selling Pogba and adding a more defensive-minded midfielder could serve United better than relying on the Frenchman, who so far this season has conceded more goals than goal contributions for the club.
At just 28, Pogba is just entering his prime years as a footballer. United could easily fetch atleast their initial investment of £89 million, if not a boatload more, by selling the Frenchman. The capital raised by Pogba’s departure could easily fund two new midfield players for Manchester United that could add more balance than he does.
In all, it simply doesn’t make sense for Pogba or United to continue their marriage beyond 2021. He hasn’t been the leader the club hoped for, neither the club has provided him with the environment that could help him thrive. It is time for both parties to swallow their pride, do the right thing and move on from each other.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Paul Ellis