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Has Paul Pogba reached a point of no return at Man United?

The Frenchman has been reduced to a substitute role on more than one occasion this season.

Paul Pogba (file pic).
Paul Pogba (file pic).
Image: PA

IT’S MORE THAN four years since Manchester United made Paul Pogba the then-most expensive player in the world, signing for a €105-million fee from Juventus.

Since then, even Pogba’s most ardent supporters would struggle to argue that the move has been an unequivocal success.

In the France international’s time at the club, the Red Devils have finished in the Premier League table (in chronological order): 6th, 2nd, 6th, 3rd.

Pogba was the type of player who was expected to turn United into serious title challengers, yet even that one second-place finish, achieved under Jose Mourinho, comes with the caveat that they were still 19 points behind champions Man City that year.

And under both Mourinho and current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Pogba has not always been an automatic starter in the team.

Before the international break, after losing three of their first six league matches, United travelled to face Everton with Solskjaer under serious pressure.

As he prepared for a vital game with speculation surrounding his future intensifying, it seemed telling that Pogba started on the bench.

Particularly this season, United have struggled to accommodate Pogba and Bruno Fernandes — a similar type of player — the same team.

Fernandes, in contrast with his team-mate, has been a revelation since joining Man United from Porto for a reported €80 million fee.

He managed eight goals in 14 league appearances last season, helping propel United to a Champions League spot, which looked unlikely prior to his arrival.

Moreover, this season, the 26-year-old has already scored five from seven games — five more than Pogba has managed in the Premier League this season.

Increasingly, the two players look incompatible in the same side. 

When they stated together against Tottenham, United were trounced 6-1. Pogba had to be content with a substitute appearance in the next game — a 4-1 win over Newcastle, as was also the case in the 0-0 draw with Chelsea.

Solskjaer then started both Pogba and Fernandes in the subsequent fixture — a 1-0 loss to Arsenal, before the 27-year-old reverted to a substitute role at Goodison Park.

The ostensible problem is that both Fernandes and Pogba ideally want the freedom which the main attacking midfield role in the side provides, and the Portuguese player has tended to have a greater impact there and so usually gets preferred.

Pogba is then shoehorned into a more defensive position, but there has been plenty of evidence — such as the needless penalty he gave away against Tottenham — to suggest he does not have the discipline required to perform this task, in contrast with the less talented but more reliable pairing of Fred and Scott McTominay.

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The signing last August of Donny van de Beek from Ajax, for a reported £35 million plus £5 million in add-ons, has presented a further complication.

The 23-year-old attacking midfielder has not seen much game time so far, but is likely to be given more opportunities as he acclimatises to life at Old Trafford.

All of which leaves Pogba, who is among the club’s highest earners with reported wages of £290,000 a week, in a rather tenuous-looking position.

The French star, mainly through his agent, has hinted at a desire to move in the past, and he might well have departed already were it not for the coronavirus pandemic severely limiting the finances of many of Europe’s top clubs.

If the current situation persists, neither Pogba nor United will likely to be too happy about it, and there is potential for a Mesut Ozil-esque scenario where the coach decides the star man is more trouble than he is worth, thereby ostracising him completely from first-team affairs.

Pogba’s current deal is due to expire next summer, though there is an option to trigger an extension to 2022.

At the moment though, the World Cup winner’s future looks far from certain, and a departure appears likely sooner rather than later.

Upcoming Premier League fixtures:

Saturday

Newcastle v Chelsea (12.30)
Aston Villa v Brighton (15.00)
Tottenham v Man City (17.30)
Man United v West Brom (20.00)

Sunday

Fulham v Everton (12.00)
Sheffield United v West Ham (14.00)
Leeds v Arsenal (16.30)
Liverpool v Leicester City (19.00)

Monday

Burnley v Crystal Palace (17.30)
Wolves v Southampton (20.00)

Mike Sherry joins Gavan and Murray to preview the big one in Twickenham:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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