Paul Labile Pogba is an enigma.
No one but the man himself knows what is up with him and his situation sometimes. It’s a mystery that only people close to him can unravel. Often incorrectly judged by the media for his approach off the pitch, Pogba is undoubtedly a class player on his day. A single bad performance can sometimes be enough to tarnish his reputation. Not because he’s a bad player, but because he’s not ‘an ideal character’ for some.
But the argument for him being unfairly treated by the Manchester United fans has been run to the ground every single time. Agreed, Pogba sometimes is unfairly treated by fans for the person he is when some other Man United players who play just as bad are not. But that isn’t the only reason why Pogba has never struck up a relationship with United fans, ever since he returned to Old Trafford in the summer of 2016.
When I saw some United fans abused Pogba after the defeat to Cardiff, I was not sure of what to say.
Does he deserve to be ‘abused’? No.
Has he been playing at his best in recent weeks? No.
Perhaps, he is more deserving of criticism than abuse. The modern-day average football fan may blur the lines between the terms, but Pogba has been one of United’s best players this season. And at his best, has won United games. A lot of the big games United have won, Pogba has had a role to play. Be it against Tottenham at Wembley or against Chelsea and Arsenal in the FA Cup.
But one thing that has always pulled Pogba back from being a fans’ favourite isn’t his performance, playing style or off-pitch activities. It is everything that the papers say. There is no smoke without fire, mind you. Every report about Pogba has had some element of truth in it.
He was close to leaving United last summer and Juventus had made two attempts to do so, from what I understand. The Bianconeri are still viewing his situation very closely and would jump on the chance to make the return a reality. And if given the chance, Pogba would want to go back to Turin too.
When Anthony Martial gets heavily linked with clubs, United fans stop chanting his name. They fear a lack of commitment. But when he plays well, they do chant his name. Because the fear of lack of commitment eases away when he starts playing well.
For Pogba, commitment issues boil up just when his performances drop. Its always a pattern. As soon as he plays badly in two games, everything will start boiling up again. Be it Juventus or Real Madrid. And because of these patterns that have emerged, Pogba has hardly gotten along with fans. When his work rate drops, he hardly helps himself.
It is because of severe commitment issues off the pitch that Pogba was ‘abused’ so vociferously. Any other United player would not have been literally abused. Romelu Lukaku might have. Alexis Sanchez might have. Not Martial or David de Gea. Because their lack of commitment will not be backed by what their agent is doing for them with other clubs. For De Gea, it is out of respect for what he has done to keep the club relevant.
If reputed outlets don’t link Pogba with moves away from United, he will not be abused in that manner by his own fans. Even if he doesn’t show commitment on the pitch. He might only have been booed by them like the other players are when they fail to show any passion or will.
It is immature of a player like him to keep doing all of it. It portrays himself and the club he is a product of in bad light. He can dance and make himself a brand on Instagram, no one has a problem with that. Some people love that part of his personality. But the commitment issues that emerge every time he’s through a bad patch signal at immaturity and attitude problems that Jose indicated at and those that Sir Alex Ferguson feared of.
It is also worth noting that Jose Mourinho never wanted to sell Pogba. He wanted to discipline him and his ways through the methods of his own. Methods that worked with Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof and even Henrikh Mkhitaryan till a point. Through that, Mourinho wanted to tap into the world-class potential Pogba has and wanted to make him a better player. But the Frenchman never helped himself by criticising his own manager- a manager who is one of the most successful ones in footballing history. Worst of all, he was his captain at that point.
That is clear and open sign of the issues Pogba has with his attitude and ego. The inflation of it and not the inflation of his world-class ability is costing him very badly. Where Man United are today, they don’t really want players who are not committed to the task. They have a team full of those sort of players already. Pogba’s background in that puts him at the top of that list any day. He might seem committed when the times are right, but when it hits a snag, the toxic cycle emerges once again. And it helps absolutely no one.
He can be a leader, but the way things are off the pitch in terms of what they reflect about his commitment, he should not be one. World class players elevate players around them to another level. Virgil van Dijk has made Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip look like very good defenders. Gareth Bale at Tottenham made many players in the team look class. Luis Suarez helped Daniel Sturridge improve to a point where the former Chelsea man hasn’t reached till now. And he never will.
When people say that Pogba would love it at United if he has players at a better level playing alongside him, it hardly makes sense. Pogba will not love it at Man United with everything that has happened. The situation where the club is, it will not attract world-class players. It needs to adopt a different transfers’ strategy than the ‘Galactico’ one to come out of this bad phase. Because the Pogba situation is like an endless cycle. When he knows that better clubs in Juventus and Real Madrid are in for him, why would he even be fussed about giving his all at a flailing club like United?
United’s lack of leadership has helped his situation worsen. Its now come to a point when no one can help it. The club needs committed players now more than anything else. Even if they aren’t as good as the world-class talent Pogba is, the fans will love to see the players give their all for second balls. But they will be left to feel a serious disconnection with them if nothing will suggest that they don’t want to be there.