Another international break, another Paul Pogba controversy.
This season whenever Pogba has returned to the comforting embrace of the French national squad he has been more willing to speak his mind to the local media.
In October he expressed his admiration for Real Madrid and how it would be a “dream” to possibly play for them in the future.
This week he used being back home to declare his discontent at the state of his stuttering career.
“This is a period that I haven’t previously experienced, as I’ve been used to playing all the time and getting into my rhythm, so that’s suddenly changed,” he told the French radio station RTL.
“I feel I’m gradually getting back into it now. I’m rediscovering my form. That’s the sort of performance that I need to produce and I need to do so consistently.”
“[Playing with France] it’s like a window that opens up. It’s a breath of fresh air when you come here. We have a truly fantastic squad. When we come here, we’re all happy.
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Back at Old Trafford these comments have been received more with a pained and wry smile than any serious alarm.
On both occasions Pogba’s words were not that unreasonable, or even disloyal to United, but he is now earning more attention for what he says rather than for how he performs. Less talk, and more action is required from the Frenchman.
What is not up for debate is Pogba has endured a dreadfully disappointing start to this season.
In seven Premier League appearances Pogba is yet to register a goal or an assist.
While the midfielder has had some promising moments, overall he has been off the pace and guilty of some costly mistakes.
In the defeats to Arsenal and Tottenham at Old Trafford he gave away a penalty in each game with a rash and ill-timed tackle.
Pogba’s form after last season’s restart had helped to propel United to a third placed finish, and so hopes were high he would carry this in to the new season.
But Pogba returned looking drained and unfocused as United experienced their own slow start, which sees them currently stranded fourteenth in the table.
It should be noted Pogba tested positive for COVID-19 in August, and could still be feeling the effects of a virus that we are still learning about.
But after starting the first three league games the United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had seen enough and dropped Pogba for their trip to Newcastle in October.
The Frenchman would ultimately come off the bench for an impressive last 21 minutes to help secure a 4-1 win for United at St James’ Park.
Pogba would go on to produce similarly assured cameos as a substitute against Everton in the Premier League, and Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League when he provided the assist for Marcus Rashford’s winning goal.
But Pogba is 27-years-old, once the most expensive player in the world, he should be approaching his peak and dominating games now.
This is his fifth season at United, and his merits as a player and overall value to the side are still being vigorously debated.
Neither party are where they expected to be when the Frenchman returned to Old Trafford in the summer of 2016.
The player had hoped to be regularly winning the Premier League and playing in the latter stages of the Champions League, but so far only has a League Cup and Europa League to show for his efforts.
While United thought they were guaranteed a world-class player for their investment of £89.1 million, but have so far been severely underwhelmed.
At the moment it is an awkward marriage, with both considering whether they still want to make it work.
There is a very good chance Pogba would not still be at Old Trafford had the COVID-19 outbreak not forced interested clubs to slash their transfer budgets.
He remains in his adopted home of Manchester with a contract that expires in a fast-approaching 18 months.
At the moment United have only made tentative efforts to ensure Pogba stays beyond that.
There remains a desire for him to succeed at Old Trafford, and for the club to try to retain all their world-class players.
But in just over a year’s time Pogba will be able to speak to clubs in Europe about a potential move in the summer of 2022.
If United want to avoid losing him for nothing they will have to decide in the next six months whether to offer him a new contract.
But for that to happen Pogba has to quickly prove he is worth a lot more than just a place on the substitutes’ bench.
Source: Forbes – Business