Manchester United’s star midfielder Paul Pogba experienced some intense criticism in his first few months at Old Trafford. The criticism was to be expected, as the world record signing did not hit top form straightaway. Any other player would have been given the opportunity to settle at United, but Pogba was an exception primarily because of his incredible £89 million transfer fee and his time spent at the club as a youngster. In the last few months, though, Pogba has easily been one of the best players for United. Yet, this status has not been so apparent in terms of a key statistic – goals.
Pogba has managed to score only four goals in 20 league appearances this season. The midfielder has responded to his critics by saying that his world record transfer to United does not mean that he is expected to score goals. He said, via ESPN:
“The fee, I don’t even think about it anymore. I came to play football. It’s not true that I’m happy today because I’m the most expensive player in the world.”
“My role as a midfielder is not to score. I can make a difference in games, but I have a lot of work. Defensive work, dictate play. It’s also a question of my abilities. I can also make the difference in winning back possession, in the team’s play … I have to work for the team rather than think about myself.”
The Frenchman has never been a prolific goal scorer in his career. The eight goals he scored with Juventus last term was his best return till date, and he matched his tally from the 2014-15 season. He has always averaged a goal every three or four games. However, the latest expectation for the midfielder to be scoring more comes as a result of Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho giving him a free role on the pitch. Just ahead of the Liverpool game, he said:
“He [Jose Mourinho] let me free on the pitch. He told me just to enjoy myself. That is it. That is all I need to hear from the manager.”
Pogba conceded the penalty that led to the opening goal in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Sunday. The Frenchman also missed a great chance to score – after being put clean through by Henrikh Mkhitaryan – in the first half.
The 23-year-old is clearly not a player for the short term. It was one of the reasons why manager Jose Mourinho stood by him even during his poor form early on in the campaign. Pogba will certainly be surprised by the large amount of criticism that has come his way after a poor game against Liverpool. Yet, it was probably his first poor game since the goalless draw against Watford back in September.
As a complete midfielder, it would also be wrong to expect only goals from Pogba.