Paul Pogba is struggling for form for Manchester United. But not with France.
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Pogba, 27, has been a substitute in recent weeks at his club side and on a recent rare start he gave a penalty kick away as United lost 1-0 at home to Arsenal.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given Pogba chances, which he hasn’t taken, and it is clear Bruno Fernandes is United’s main No. 10.
With France boss Didier Deschamps acknowledging that Pogba is ‘far from happy’ with his minutes at club level, the player himself has echoed those views but remained focused on getting back in the team.
Now, we all know that star players love to drop a hint or two when they’re on international duty and away from their clubs. It happens every single international break and at the moment it seems like every time Pogba plays for France, when he speaks he says something which can be linked back to Manchester United.
What did Pogba actually say?
With no contract extension in sight, the debate over Pogba’s effectiveness at United rumbles on. Anyway, here’s what Pogba said when he opened up to RTL in France about his recent struggles to be a regular.
“This is a period that I haven’t previously experienced in my career, as I’ve been used to playing all the time and getting into my rhythm, so that’s suddenly changed. I feel I’m gradually getting back into it now. I’m rediscovering my form. That’s the sort of performance that I need to produce and I need to do so consistently,” Pogba said, via Sky Sports.
Pogba played extremely well in France’s 1-0 UEFA Nations League win at Portugal, which secured them a spot in the final four of the tournament and dumped out the reigning champions.
What is it about playing for France which seems to bring out the best in Pogba?
“[Playing with France] it’s like a window that opens up. It’s a breath of fresh air when you come here,” Pogba said. “We have a truly fantastic squad. When we come here, we’re all happy. We’re all pleased to see one another. We really enjoy ourselves on the pitch. That doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy ourselves at club level, but it’s not the same here. We’re a real family, and we have so much fun when we come here.”
What is Pogba trying to achieve here?
Seriously, what does he want to happen after making these comments? The fact he’s happy playing for France is fair enough and even though some will say his comments are ill-advised when it comes to playing with his friends and having fun, there is no problem with that.
Solskjaer and the Manchester United coaching staff may be impressed by his hunger and will be happy he isn’t happy at sitting on the bench, or they may see it as another complaint for a player who has failed to deliver consistently over the last four years.
The real answer is probably somewhere in the middle.
It is clear Pogba has the talent to play week in, week out at Man United but consistency has been a huge problem for him since he returned to the club from Juventus in 2016.
First under Jose Mourinho and now under Solskjaer, there is no position which seems to get the best out of him. Solskjaer has been playing him on the left of a midfield diamond, which has worked okay in possession and when United are moving forward but not so well defensively.
What now for Pogba?
When Pogba has been deployed centrally it hasn’t worked, both in a more attacking and defensive role, and it comes down to this: is he just better playing in a very talented team (France and formerly Juventus) than he is at being the main man on a just above average United team?
This could be the main problem. Pogba is expected to lead United but his mercurial talents are best used when he’s slotted in to be one of the stars instead of the main star. Expectations have been ridiculously high since he returned to United and Pogba wants to be a success.
Most of the time he hasn’t had a successful team around him and he hasn’t been able to get the best out of the players around him, let alone himself.
If you read
ever so carefully between the lines, Pogba is saying he needs to be surrounded by better players to be at his best and that is the case at France, but not so much at Man United. Is he wrong? Should he have said it? We haven’t heard the last of this.