Manchester United: The Puzzling Case of Paul Pogba

Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba (Photo by DAVE THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba (Photo by DAVE THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Paul Pogba has been talked about quite a bit this summer; with rumors of an exit to Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid on free next summer, why didn’t Manchester United sell him this window passed?

Back in the summer of 2016, Manchester United signed the Frenchman for a then-record fee of £89m. He had just won a Serie A title with Juventus and was one of France’s best players during France’s EURO 2016 run.

At the time, he was only 23 and was one of the brightest young stars in Europe. So what went wrong at Manchester United – why hasn’t Pogba lived up to his expectations – and why hasn’t he replicated his performances from Juventus and France?

The blame is not just on Pogba

The blame is not just on Pogba for not reaching his potential in England. In five years, he has only managed to win an EFL Cup and a Europa League, both in his first season.

One reason for Paul Pogba’s decline at Manchester is his coach. Ole Gunnar Solskjær is a player-manager. There’s nothing wrong with being a player-manager, but it hasn’t worked so far.

The best scenario for a player-manager was Didier Deschamps in the 2018 World Cup. Didier Deschamps, like Solskjær, does well with the press and gets along well with the players. The difference was that Deschamps had such a vast collection of talent and he has had a relationship with his players for 6+ years.

In EURO 2020, Deschamps couldn’t adapt tactically. Gareth Southgate is another example of EURO 2020. He is a great player-manager, but he doesn’t do anything special tactically, or make the right calls in big games. The final against Italy was a perfect example of that.

The opposite of a player-manager is a coach like Pep Guardiola. Pep improves the team’s tactics, makes smart adjustments during the game, and improves his players. Every player has improved under Pep. Pogba hasn’t improved in his five years at Manchester.

Manchester United tactics have stalled Pogba’s progress

Another reason for Pogba’s struggle at Manchester is the tactics. Manchester United fans, rightfully so, give Pogba a hard time about his low defensive work rate.

France has N’Golo Kanté and Corentin Tolisso to take care of defensive responsibilities, so Pogba exerts little effort on defending. This, in return, allows Pogba to have more time creating and scoring. France does a good job at hiding Pogba’s weaknesses and showing his strengths.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær uses Pogba differently; Bruno is able to create chances while Pogba has more defensive responsibilities. A perfect signing for Manchester United would be Brighton’s Yves Bissouma.

The Malian midfielder is an excellent defensive midfielder that can operate in the same role Kanté does for France. Considering how much money the Red Devils have spent this summer, Bissouma would be a cheaper alternative to Declan Rice.

Not to get too in-depth on Declan Rice, here’s an interesting article:

"United have pinpointed Rice as a top target to bolster their central-midfield options, with that area of the team continuing to come under tremendous amounts of scrutiny.United did want to add a new defensive-midfielder to their ranks during the summer, but finances did not permit them to do so, following the additions of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo, who all arrived at Old Trafford for big-money transfer fees.Nevertheless, United have retained their interest in Rice, who excelled for England during the European Championship, and would like to add him to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad at some stage in the future… (more on"

Manchester United hasn’t really surrounded Pogba with enough talent

Until this summer, Manchester hasn’t really surrounded Pogba with enough talent to compete for a Premier League title.

With new signings this summer: Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho, and Raphaël Varane, Manchester doesn’t have any glaring needs.

Pogba has been playing well and Manchester United have been off to a hot start, but questions still remain.

These factors add up to the importance of this season. For Ole Gunnar Solskjær, there is no excuse for the lack of talent. It is up to him to put the pieces together to compete for a Premier League title and a Champions League. Will this season show that Pogba and Bruno can play together?

How far can in-form Brighton & Hove Albion go?. light. Related Story

Paul Pogba may leave no matter the result of this season, but it is important for the club to try to keep him. Maybe a Premier League title will keep Pogba at Old Trafford beyond 2022.