Pogba’s journey to Manchester United
The French midfielder summed up his overall impression of his time at Manchester United quite accurately in his recent interview with Le Figaro newspaper:
“I have to be honest, the last five years have not satisfied me. They have not satisfied me at all”
When he gave this interview, it had been just under five years since Pogba opened the scoring in MJ’s match against Ajax in the Europa League final. It was the end of his first season since his powerful return to Old Trafford. United paid a then-record £89 million for Pogba. But Manchester City have not won anything else since that final. Pogba leaves United for the second time. And the six career years that players usually spend at their peak left a sense of understatement. But at what point did it all go wrong?
Pogba returned to MJ in August 2016 for a record sum of money at the time. That transfer had an explosive effect. The deal seemed like a demonstration of United’s strength and seemed timely. Jose Mourinho, who had taken over as Manchester manager, wanted to get Pogba, and for chief executive Ed Woodward, who had begun to feel uneasy after firing the two coaches, it was an important move. It was a chance of sorts to correct Alex Ferguson’s mistake of not fighting for Paul earlier and letting him go to Juventus for free. It was a chance to prove that the club still attracts high quality players, and a chance to bring a graduate from his academy back into the team. From a marketing point of view, the deal was also important.
However, a high price had to be paid for it. In addition to the transfer value. If we believe the financial leaks Football Leaks, the information of which MJ did not dispute, Pogba’s contract implied a salary of £7.75 million per year, there was also a loyalty bonus of £3.75 million per year, a bonus for reaching the Champions League – £1.85 million. The image rights deal was worth £3 million a year. And Paul’s agent, Mino Raiola, was paid an incredible £41 million by the club.
The question of application
If you scroll back through Pogba’s time at Old Trafford, it’s hard to say definitively in what position Paul played. There was no consistency in his role and role. He was part of two central midfielders, played left back in a three, played a ten, played an advanced attacking midfielder in front of two holding midfielders.
A clue could have been given to MJ by the French national team, with whom Pogba won the 2018 World Cup with a brilliant campaign. There he proved to be a superb creator with inclusions from deep. But he needed reliable cover. But when at MJ in his first season he was allowed to move into attack, Zlatan Ibrahimovic quite often overlapped that role, as the Swede then tried the manner of dropping deep just right. Often their positions were crossed. But Pogba could have been patient – Zlatan’s age at MJ was not that long.
However, even after Ibrahimovic’s departure, the MJ coaching staff did not find an adequate solution for Pogba’s use. Marcial, Rashford, Sancho at different times liked to act in those positions where in the French team Pogba effectively and unexpectedly broke in. In addition, Paul worked noticeably less intensively in defense. Therefore, it was dangerous for MJ to leave him with someone in the center – too much load on the partner. United never found the optimal combination in midfield with Pogba.
“In the French national team it’s simple – I play and play in my position. There I know my role and feel the confidence of the coach and the players,” Pogba told Le Figaro. – “At MJ the difference is felt. It’s hard to be stable and consistent when you change positions a lot, when the system or your partners change.”
Life off the field
Pogba had trouble not only finding himself in the game’s perception of MJ. His character practically guaranteed problems off the field as well. And if there’s a chance of problems arising, don’t doubt it will happen. Paul’s relationship with Mourinho began to deteriorate fairly quickly. It got to the point where the Portuguese stripped the Frenchman of his vice-captain position in September 2019. This happened after Pogba criticized Mourinho’s tactics.
Mourinho’s departure seemed to signal that Paul and his supporters in the team had won the internal struggle. The Frenchman barely concealed his joy after the news of the Portuguese’s dismissal. It even made its way onto his Twitter feed. For a while, harmony prevailed in the team while Ole Gunnar Solskjær enjoyed a rather long “honeymoon” with MJ. But new problems proved to be just around the corner.
It was not without the character of Pogba’s agent Raiola. He began to throw in information about Paul’s possible departure, probably hoping to provoke MJ to act proactively on a contract extension with the corresponding bonuses. Mino said that he discussed Pogba’s return with Juventus in early 2020. At the same time, there was a spat with Sulzer, who said it should be up to the player and the club, not his agent.
At one point, Sulscher was ready to approve Pogba’s departure, but the coronavirus crisis broke out, completely disrupting the transfer market, and MJ realized that they might miscalculate if they decided to concoct such responsible deals in such conditions. An attempt was made to extend the contract. And it was unsuccessful.
In his last season for MJ, Pogba played 20 games in the Premier League. He scored just once, against Burnley. He also made nine assists. And four of them came in the opening game of the season with Leeds. That match at Old Trafford became one of the brightest for the entire career Paul in Manchester. This also includes the famous 3-2 victory over Manchester City in 2018, when he scored twice. Yes, and the Europa League final with Ajax. But those were fleeting moments.
And the background, unfortunately, was disappointing. And with enviable regularity, rumors crept in that Pogba didn’t want to play for United anymore, that he wasn’t the right man. The fans did not relieve the pressure. And in his last match for MU against Liverpool in April, Pogba was booed by the fans. Such a sad ending to a story that began so powerfully. Now Pogba may try to enter the same river twice again. This time with Juventus.