Manchester United fans were salivating when they announced they were bringing Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford. Neutral fans were equally excited to see the young Frenchman in the Premier League. That excitement has, however, not panned out quite as many were hoping.
Is the price tag to heavy on his mind? Still adapting to the difference between the Premier League and Serie A? Struggling to find any consistent form? Is he not used to playing in such a tinkered with XI? The stand out reason is undeniably that he simply isn’t being utilised correctly by Jose Mourinho, down to sheer naivety.
Juve’s Pogba vs United’s Pogba
United fans were rightly excited by bringing Pogba back to Old Trafford. Without more players of his ilk to play alongside on a weekly basis, the whole move is going to feel like a waste of time and money. Look at the majority of Pogba’s time at Juventus. He played in a midfield three, in a concrete position, with two world-class players in Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal.
Compare that to this season; he has been paired up with Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera. There is absolutely no comparison. You can’t expect a world-class player playing with world-class players to come in and play at that level with, well…Fellaini.
Even when he plays alongside a player of genuine quality such as Blaise Matuidi for the French national side, if he is not played in his natural position, he struggles. Both were employed as deeper sitting midfielders in the Euros and Pogba’s performances suffered for it. Whilst he may be able to ‘get by’ playing in a two-man midfield, it is painfully clear that he excels in a three-man midfield.
“Where Am I Playing Boss?”
Pogba has played in so many positions, in varying formations, it’s almost as though Mourinho honestly doesn’t know how to get the best out of him. True or not, when you pay £89million for one player, you must build your midfield and whole team around him. You can’t spend that sort of money on a player (especially when the club could have just kept him on as a youth player) and then force him into positions and formations like an angry child trying to slot a square shape through a star-shaped hole. It simply won’t work, and it smacks of naivety to think bringing in a single player will reap dividends.
Another issue is does Pogba question what his role really is? At Juventus they attempted to mould him into a deeper-lying Pirlo style of player, it didn’t work. But that box-to-box role on the left hand side of a midfield three was his position, which he completely owned under both Allegri and Conte. Pogba has been coming deeper and deeper recently for United, even when playing further forward and it tends to completely stifle the play. If not because he is passing back to his defenders, then it’s because he is nowhere near the box when United are attacking because of how deep he came to receive the ball.
Happy 24th birthday Paul Pogba
For Man Utd this season:
1⃣️. Most passes: (1,567)
1⃣️. Most take-ons: (64)
1⃣️. Most chances created: (50) pic.twitter.com/WH8zhhY5lW
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 15, 2017
This highlights the self-awareness of Pogba, he realises he is a better player than those surrounding him. Perhaps fuelling him to think he has to drop deep and play further forward in an attempt to really stamp himself on a game. In reality this is his main downfall. Pogba would feel safe in the knowledge that he doesn’t have to try and dictate the game from deep if he was surrounded by players who could like when at Juve.
It’s clear to see that a 4-3-3 is the ‘simple’ formation going forward for United. Surely there may even be a temptation to replicate Juve’s 3-5-2 which benefited Pogba so greatly? Even as a short-term solution, give Pogba a defined role and don’t change it. His role and position has changed every other game is undoubtedly holding him back from progressing.
You have to look at how Pogba’s performances stand up by themselves and by and large this season, they’ve been poor. For a player who has been so highly touted for years, has commanded a world record fee he’s currently better known for his hair and dabbing. Matters are only made worse for not only Pogba, but the Manchester United fans, when Mourinho comes out and makes foolish statements such as Pogba supposedly being the best player on the pitch in their FA Cup exit to Chelsea. Righto Jose, way to frustrate all parties involved here.
— The ManUtd Blog (@the_manutd_blog) March 15, 2017
The calibre of player around Pogba has to pick up drastically in the summer if he is to become the lynchpin for Manchester United. Only then can he go on to fulfill his world-class potential. Whether that means an overhaul in the next transfer window, or, just bringing in a few new faces, the naivety must stop.