Paul Pogba used to divide people. On the one hand, there were those of us who believed that his elegance, athleticism and footballing intelligence were the key to bringing Manchester United back to the top of the English game; who believed that when United brought him back in 2016, his arrival would be the catalyst for the club’s rebirth.
I thought he would become United’s new flagship, their flagship talent. I thought he was good enough to become for United what Roy Keane once was.
A different player from Keane, obviously, but someone who had the ability and character to be a leader in the locker room and on the pitch. Someone who would carry the team and lead them. I misjudged this.
Defeated on his arrival at Manchester United, Paul Pogba largely failed to produce
The French midfielder’s performance in the Manchester derby was typical of his United career
On the other side, there were those who still thought Pogba was more about style than substance, who thought United were worse with him than they were without him, and who had long been tired of his attempts to get away from Old Trafford or, at least, had despaired of his tolerance for attempts by his agent, Mino Raiola, to lead him to the exit door.
But there is no more division. Not really. Four years after joining United, Pogba’s story at Old Trafford is an anti-climax.
If you’re looking for a player who has taken the club forward in the post-Ferguson era, the closest you’ll get is Bruno Fernandes. Not Pogba. Pogba has had some good times and some good ones too. More often than not, however, it has been average.
His role in the Manchester derby was pretty typical. He made a few good passes, but the hope that he could lead a game of this importance is a distant memory.
Fans initially excited about Pogba increasingly saw him become Mr. Ordinary
He was not the worst player on the pitch but he did nothing to stand out. I hate to say it, but he’s become Mr. Ordinary.
He’s the most expensive player in English football but he didn’t play like that. It didn’t have the effect on United that Virgil van Dijk had on Liverpool or Kevin de Bruyne on Manchester City.
Too often it has been a disappointment. Too often it has been blah. Too often he has been a great player with little influence.
And when the latest melodrama over whether he wanted to leave the club exploded last week thanks to Raiola saying Pogba would be moving in the January transfer window, there was some outrage over the timing of the move. interview, but above all, there was a resignation.
Pogba and boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have had fleeting joys but he’s no longer a key star
Who cares more if Pogba wants to leave? Let him go. It’s not like he’s tied to the team’s success. We all have to accept this now.
Statistics produced by journalist Alex Lavery last week showed that with Pogba in the squad, United had a 55% win rate.
Without him, that win rate rose to 62.5%. “United are actually worse in every statistic with Pogba in the camp than they are without him,” Lavery said.
“Not only is there a 7.5% gap in the win rate, but United also end up being statistically a better goal at both ends every 3-4 games without him. “
Playing for France seems to have become a relief away from Pogba’s club dramas
Pogba’s biggest indictment is somehow that he plunged most of us into apathy. He still has the potential to be the best player on the team, but he feels like he has no chance to prove that he ever will be.
When he joined France recently, he said it was a relief to move away from United. All the allusions to wanting to leave, all the provocations from Raiola; it just got pretty boring.
He has given United many glimpses of the amazing player he can often be with France. And the idea that he was a full bust is wrong.
He was the only non-Liverpool or Manchester City representative in the 2018-19 PFA Premier League Team of the Year. He won the Fan Player of the Month award at Old Trafford.
For a player many hoped to be a talisman, Pogba hasn’t reached the top with the club
He’s always been capable of jaw-dropping moments of brilliance like the 20-yard side goal against West Ham.
But it’s not enough. Not for a player we hoped to become United’s talisman. The truth is, Pogba has become a symbol, not of Manchester United’s rejuvenation, but of the unease that still runs through the club. He became a poster boy for sub-achievements. That way it fits the United vibe perfectly.
It’s time for United to cut losses. It’s time to accept that Pogba is not quite up to the Herculean task of bringing United back into the light.
There is speculation that when the transfer window opens next month, he will get his wish to leave. The years will make him a footnote in United history, not a title.
Like many others of my generation, I remember Paolo Rossi, who passed away from a long illness last week, for the hat-trick that took Brazil out of the 1982 World Cup in one of the biggest football matches that never existed.
I was 16 so I hated him for a few days because that Brazilian side of Zico, Eder and Socrates was all that was beautiful to me. But at the end of the tournament, I wanted him and his team to beat West Germany in the final.
Every generation goes through a time when they have to start mourning their heroes, but losing Diego Maradona and Rossi in such a short time is particularly cruel.
Paolo Rossi (center) died so soon after Argentina legend Diego Maradona saw the 1980s lose two of his most iconic World Cup stars
Premier League footballers do not take the knee to pay tribute to a Marxist organization or because they want to defeat the police. This idea is laughable and willfully misleading. They take the knee to support the idea that black lives matter in the same way white lives matter.
Why the hell would you feel threatened or outraged by this? It’s not the most radical idea, is it?
It’s hard to see why anyone would object, but Millwall fans pulled it off last week when they booed their players and Derby for doing it. They also received a lot of support.
It’s an old thing, I guess. When a movement or gesture praises it, those who fear it and feel threatened by its advances, try to smear it by obscuring its message with lies.
It happened with the civil rights movement in the United States in the 60s and to a lesser extent it is happening in English football now. Sport does not do enough
The horrific injury suffered by Daniel Dubois during his heavyweight bout with Joe Joyce a fortnight ago and the growing awareness of the risks of repetitive head injuries in the sport have reignited the debate over the moral viability of boxing.
I understand these concerns and have a great deal of sympathy for them and this is not intended to undermine those arguments, just to highlight the challenges other sports face: when someone is knocked out in boxing their night is over but when someone is over. ‘one is knocked out football or rugby, we hide behind pathetically inadequate protocols and send them back there.
I found that my own tolerance for watching professional cycling was also decreasing. The sight of a peloton of human pin cushions roaming the French countryside in a sport that was said to have been systematically folded and compromised the health of its participants, has long ceased to have any appeal.