Paul Pogba might still be receiving frequent attention for his choice of hair style, and the scrutiny over his performances won’t be going away any time soon, but the Manchester United midfielder could be forgiven for enjoying his current break from club duties. The former Juventus star, who was brought back to Old Trafford in the summer of 2016 for £89m has sparkled on occasion for United since his return, but was faced with a seemingly unending barrage of criticism in the second half of the last campaign, and found himself dropped for the first time in his professional career by Jose Mourinho.
Whilst the relationship between the two doesn’t appear to be close to breaking point, things appear less-than rosy between player and manager, with both unwilling to play down the suggestion of a rift during this summer when offered the opportunity. Yet who’s responsible for the current state of affairs? At the risk of sitting on the fence, it’s not unfair to apportion blame to both parties after a disappointing year saw Manchester United end last season trophyless, and a country mile behind Premier League champions Manchester City.
From Pogba’s perspective, it’s not out of the question to suggest that the Frenchman needs to offer more for United on a consistent basis. The Manchester derby in April was a marvellous indication of the 25 year old’s capabilities; a poor first half was followed by a match-winning second, including a brace of goals. Pogba looked inspired, dangerous and fully capable of punishing England’s best side. This is what United fans and the club’s manager want to see more often; their star midfielder making the difference. Arguably, it needs to happen more often in less-challenging circumstances, be that against the Premier League’s so called lesser-teams or when Mourinho doesn’t select Pogba’s preferred 4-3-3 formation. It’s no secret that academy product shines in that set-up, but if not used, then it cannot be constantly used as an excuse for underperforming.
Mourinho, for his sins, may have already begun to address the issue of getting the best out of United’s biggest star with the purchase of Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fred earlier this summer. The Brazilian is expected to function as a box-to-box operator, and with Nemanja Matic presumably sitting alongside in a holding role, there’s every chance that the former Chelsea boss could yet find a set-up that gets the best out of Pogba on a more frequent basis. That needs to be one of the Portuguese’s biggest priorities going into next season, purely because if United are to challenge for the game’s top honours in this upcoming campaign, then Pogba will likely have to be front-and-centre of his plans. Mourinho’s famously stubborn nature often creeps up in these situations, but it’s imperative that he doesn’t make destructive team selections like he did against Tottenham Hotspur in January. Pogba and Matic were completely overrun at Wembley in a two-man midfield, and despite both performing poorly, it was the former that was singled out for criticism. Such behaviour isn’t going to help the situation going forward.
Pogba will likely be enjoying his run in the French side this summer. Les Blues might not be odds on favourites to lift the World Cup, according to Betting Top 10 but having already qualified for the knockout stages, and with other favourites such as Argentina, Brazil and Germany all stumbling in Russia so far, Pobga would surely love to have a starring role in helping his country lift the trophy for the first time in 20 years. Who knows? Maybe his club manager will take notice.