Paul Pogba arrived back at Manchester United this summer, four years after his less-than amicable exit to Juventus with incredible expectations on his shoulders. The Frenchman, coming off the back of a domestic league and cup double with the Bianconeri last season aswell as several successful years with the Italian side was one of the hottest properties on the transfer market, and his move back to Old Trafford for £89m made him the most expensive player in footballing history.
Since his return, Pogba’s performances have been something of a mixed bag. He’s scored three goals, which isn’t bad for a team that hasn’t necessarily been particularly deadly in front of goal, and performed particularly well against Southampton, Leicester City and notched a brace during the 4-1 defeat of Fenerbahce last week.
He’s also performed poorly against Manchester City, Liverpool and now, Chelsea, struggling to impose himself and being incredibly wasteful with the ball in the process. This has understandably led to much criticism from analysts, and even the club’s fans.
Paul pogba at this moment in time is absolutely disgustingly bad
— Jack Laycock (@lakes22utr) October 26, 2016
Sir Alex must have known something about Paul Pogba to have let him go.
— Worlanyo (@Kweli_) October 26, 2016
And as for Paul Pogba, how on earth have we played £89M for a player who isn’t even top 10 in the league!? He needs to step up, fast.
— #FreeMkhitaryan (@BinRooney) October 26, 2016
Never doubt Fergie. Best ever… Paul Pogba bang average
— lucas kel (@kel392) October 26, 2016
If Paul Pogba, does anything like that adidas advert in the next two years I will give all my pay away to a charity of someone’s choice
— Matthew Rickwood (@MatthewRickwood) October 26, 2016
Paul Pogba has been dreadful so far this season ?
— Daniel Gray (@DanielGrayLFC) October 26, 2016
Jose Mourinho, in quotes carried by ESPN, isn’t worried by the Frenchman’s form:
“He can play in so many positions. The problem is not the position. The problem is not the tactical system. The problem is, in my opinion, somebody that comes from a different style of football and needs this time to be at his best level in football that is really difficult to play, especially for midfield players.”
“I think it is really difficult to play or adapt from different realities, but he is a phenomenal player. He has unbelievable potential. He has years and years to develop his game, so that expectation and investment from the club is based on that — a super player for the next seven or eight years.”
“With the quality of his pass, with his aerial game, with his agility in such a big body, for his defensive side of the game, coming from the back with the ball, he would be a phenomenal central defender, too.”
Given that Pogba has struggled to replicate his outwardly confident public persona with his performances on the pitch since his transfer, it’s a wise piece of man-management by Mourinho to publicly support the Frenchman. There’s certainly a sense of that £89m price tag weighing on Pogba’s shoulders, and given the stuttering form of United’s other creative players, he has been tasked with a heavy burden of being the club’s primary creative force at times. But if his manager is confident in his abilities, and is convinced that he will come good, then fans perhaps need to have a bit more patience.