The ego has landed as a World Cup winner, but is that good or bad news for Manchester United?
Will we see a man finally at peace with his demons, confident in his own ability and raise his game to another level in the Red shirt, befitting the (once) most expensive footballer on the planet tag, Or will we witness another fits and start season, with an inflated opinion of himself immune to the management of Jose & co and the requirements of the team?
Who will step out onto the pitch for us this season, the new Eric Cantona or an older Ashley Grimes?
After protracted negotiations with the Chairman of Le Harvre, we finally secured the services of the next big thing, the French teenager Paul Pogba. (And we don’t know Le Harvre of it)
Rumours emerged from the training ground that here was a raw talent that needed to be moulded. However, other rumours circulated that, like Ravel Morrison, this kid was a “wrong ‘n” and needed to be handled with care. However his ego embarked on a collision course with Sir Alex Ferguson and, rightly or wrongly, there was only going to be one winner – Sir Alex, although it can be argued United lost.
Transferred to Juventus for a pittance for someone with so much potential, £200,000, he was a cornerstone in Juve’s midfield as the la Vecchia Signora (the Old Lady) won four consecutive Series “A” titles. Without the benefit of Channel 4’s weekly Football Italia, I bought into the myth that Paul was now ‘the real deal’, so when United paid the then world record fee of £89 million I was split between the frustration of United’s philosophy to “sell cheap. buy expensive”, Tesco’s reverse policy in action, but the fact we had finally acted as the so-called “world’s biggest club” and made a marquee signing.
“There’s no value on the market”. Hmmm…
Since the demise of Roy Keane, we have never found an adequate replacement, with the right balance of talent, brain and brawn to boss our midfield. As the 2016/2017 season got underway, Jose’s rigid system imposed on the first team squad seemed to restrict Paul’s movement and effectiveness. Surely this wasn’t the player that won four consecutive titles in defensive minded Italy? Who was to blame? Mourinho or Pogba, or more realistically, a combination of both?
Disquiet began to manifest itself on the terraces (sorry, seats) and on various United forums. The world’s most expensive footballer? You ‘aving a larf! Yet the whole season was deeply frustrating for United fans. We tended to grab draws from the jaws of victory, Jose’s rigid system suppressing the natural and instinctive ability of our more creative players. Yes, we won 2 trophies and qualified for the Champions League, so on paper, we were progressing but on the pitch, we were stagnating and Pogba’s spasmodic contribution failed to ignite the crowd.
Gradually the similarities between Jose and LvG began to surface. Anyone who knows me knows I campaigned for many seasons for Pep to take over from Sir Alex. Jose was always my second choice. Undeniably successful at every club he managed, we were told he craved he United job above all others, and that he would be willing to adapt his defensive mantra to United’s attacking DNA.
Little was seen in Jose’s first season, but we all recognised the deficiencies in our first team squad that had been allowed to fester even in SAF’s final years, so the majority of United fans gave both Mourinho and Pogba the benefit of the doubt.
However, second season syndrome imposed itself, and once again Pogba flattered to deceive, The excellent purchase of Nemanja Matic from Chelsea should have allowed Pogba to be more adventurous, creative and attack-minded, yet we still witness 50 meter passes from midfield that rarely found its intended target. Some shots were on target, some landed in Row Z.
By now I looked more deeply into his time at Juventus and I was surprised (not) to discover that, even in a remarkable title-winning Juventus he could frustrate his teammates, directors and fans in equal measure with his idiosyncrasies and struggled at times to fit into the team’s system.
Pogba is now 25 years old. How much longer do we have to wait to see the fully rounded footballer we all hoped we would see. He’s by far the most controversial player in the current United squad, dividing opinion right down the middle. On Red Issue fans forum alone he has generated more than 13,000 posts, far more than any other player.
Which brings us to the present day. Should we sell him and make ‘real’ money on the back of his world cup success and invest in a more consistently effective player(s) or continue with the spluttering enigma? It could go either way. There are so many factors in the equation that nobody can claim with any confidence how the dice will roll.
One thing I know for sure – I’m not sure.