Forget Manchester United – the guy playing for France is the real Paul Pogba – –

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Forget Manchester United – the guy playing for France is the real Paul Pogba – –


Five years at Old Trafford has proven without a doubt that Pogba is not the heir to the mantle of United’s great central midfielders – the tradition of Bryan Robson, Paul Ince, Keane or even Paul Scholes. On nights like Munich he is much closer to Eric Cantona, a player who has done a lot of things differently, and some with spectacular style, but you would never expect him to lead the game of the usual way.

The contrast between the performance data for club and country is stark, right down to the positions Pogba most often occupies for France and United. The accompanying tables show that for France against Germany he was more often than not on the right side and in front of his own goal. He’s barely touched the left side, where United tend to deploy him. It is not just the case that he spent more time attacking positions for France – in fact it was the opposite. For France, he spent 59% of the time in his own half. At United during the Premier League season, he spent 55% of his time in the opposing half.

Even so, the difference in the results is surprising. Over 42 games for United in 2020-21, contrasting with his nine appearances in France since September, Pogba’s average production per game is better for his country in almost every category. His six goals and six assists for United during the period, compared to none for France, are the only significant category in which he performs better for his club – and even those returns could hardly be considered a triumph over the course of the season. ‘a season.

Over 90 minutes, he averaged a better outing for France in terms of passes, shots, tackles, interceptions and recoveries. He wins the ball in the final third more often for his country and he passes the ball into the penalty area more frequently. He created more chances on average for United, but his expected goals and assists, the metric that measures the quality of some chances, were higher when playing for his country.

He also makes mistakes with France, as that is the nature of the way he plays – even if it seems like a compromise that Didier Deschamps has made his peace with. Pogba is erratic, even on his best days. Which doesn’t mean United haven’t tried with him. They’ve made him their highest paid player for a period and when he’s in form he’s selected. In a clear illustration of where the power lies, Pogba outlasted Jose Mourinho and there will most likely be an offer of a new contract in the coming months.

Unfortunately for United, there is no doubt that he did not provide the support they hoped to provide as a one-off signing in a generation, comparable to Robson, Cantona, Keane or Wayne Rooney. In this regard, the responsibility lies on both sides. Tuesday showed just how effective he can be, as a player whose physique and presence belies an entirely different talent.

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