What will Paul Pogba be expected to achieve at Manchester United?
“It was the match against Blackburn in December 2011 at Old Trafford. Paul Scholes had retired, Darren Fletcher was injured. There was no one left to play in midfield. I was training and I was beginning to get better bit by bit and the coach never stopped telling me, “You’re this far”. Then there was Rafael in midfield and I was disgusted. I was disgusted and I didn’t get on either.”
Paul Pogba is on the brink of a record breaking £100 million return to Manchester United. After making just three senior appearances for United as a youth player, the Frenchman moved to dominant Italian champions Juventus after falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson for a mere £800,000 compensation fee.
Pogba had been pushing for first-team football since the start of the season, but was overlooked time and time again. He believed his break had come against Blackburn, but instead, Sir Alex selected a right-back to start in midfield over the up-and-coming Frenchman.
Since then, the 23-year-old has gone on to become one of the most talented and sought-after midfielders in the world. Pogba immediately broke into the Juventus first-team during the 2012/13 season, and has gone on to make 176 appearances for the Old Lady.
In his time at Juve, Pogba has scored 31 times in all competitions and claimed 28 assists. Serie A has the least number of goals scored in the top four European leagues, making the Frenchman’s contribution even more impressive.
On top of the finished product, the midfielder managed 3.5 shots per game last Serie A last term, as well as three successful dribbles with each appearance. Even from deeper positions, Pogba is guaranteed to be a threat on the attack.
In Chelsea’s title winning 2014/15 season under Jose Mourinho, Cesc Fabregas fulfilled a similar role to that which Paul Pogba will if he re-joins United. Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1 system traditionally relies on a strong defensive midfielder and a more aggressive, creative partner alongside.
Fabregas managed three goals and 18 assists in that role, a considerable haul for the season. Pogba’s attacking movement and fierce eye for goal will surely lead to similar success, likely with more goals and fewer assists to his name, but no less effective.
While predominantly an attacking player, the modern midfielder has to be well versed in all aspects of the game. The 23-year-old may favour moving forward, but he is far from nervous in defence. In league football last season, he made 2.2 successful tackles per game on average, more than defensive anchor Michael Carrick and on par with Morgan Schneiderlin. He was only beaten on the dribble 0.7 times per game, fewer than both United players, and also blocked more shots.
Pogba is far from a defensive liability, but his disciplinary record does raise questions. Pogba committed 2.5 fouls per game, a rather worrying figure, amassing 10 yellow cards over 33 appearances. In the Premier League, every five yellow cards nets a one game suspension, meaning that, if he fails to control his reckless fouls, Pogba could miss several games per season through suspension.
The Frenchman is truly a wonderfully creative player, but his predisposition towards the incredible can be more of a hindrance than a help. While a 30-yard screamer can be incredible if it’s pulled off – which in fairness, Pogba often does – it can become frustrating when a player continually misses the target instead of taking an easy pass to keep the attack moving.
As talented as Paul Pogba is, £100 million is an obscene amount of money. He is truly an incredible player, and he is set to only improve as time goes on, but a price tag that large comes with the weight on incredible expectation.
As part of Jose Mourinho’s rebuilding project at Manchester United, Pogba will certainly be expected to build on his past successes and help push for the Premier League title, as well as European success.
As the game’s first £100 million player, many would expect him to go on to be amongst the world’s absolute elite. At the very least though, he’ll be expected to start ahead of Matteo Darmian in midfield if need be.
Will also writes for footballticketnet