Expect to hear a lot more of this in the months leading up to the summer transfer window, but fresh reports claim Paul Pogba has his heart set on leaving Manchester United.
Pogba has barely been seen this season due to his repeated injury worries, and at this point you would not be surprised if we never saw him in a United shirt again.
This is quite the ending to the story that saw the France international return to Old Trafford in 2016 as their club-record signing, as reported at the time by BBC Sport, but Man Utd simply cannot have any complaints.
In the Manchester Evening News report that his desire to leave United is now an open secret, it is damning to read that Pogba’s team-mates aren’t even surprised and respect his decision.
Red Devils fans will no doubt be aghast at the idea that any player, let alone one so quickly painted by many as an overpaid, pampered lover of haircuts, could possibly think himself bigger than the club (there’s no suggestion he actually does), but at this point, who could honestly blame him if he did?
For all of Pogba’s time at United, the club has been an absolute shambles from top to bottom, and little has been done to prevent their record signing from becoming the obvious scapegoat for it all.
Not only has the 26-year-old been badly let down by repeated poor signings and two disastrous choices of manager, the result of these errors will have set his development back years, with a frequent change in personnel around him and a variety of mostly inadequate tactical systems undoing so much of the good that saw him rapidly improve from an unknown youngster to a global superstar in a short space of time at Juventus.
And while United fans and former players now frequenting our airwaves as pundits will be craving a Roy Keane clone to come along and fix things for United any time soon, Pogba never has and never will be that type of leader.
That’s no criticism, that’s a simple fact that the critics need to accept. Pogba has shown quality and leadership by example for both Juventus and France, but those characteristics have not been embraced by United. Jose Mourinho notably called him a ‘virus’ (according to the Telegraph), in a totally unjustified attack that came only months after his starring role in France’s World Cup final victory, which included this inspirational dressing room speech…
The relentless attacks on Pogba have also continued to come in from pundits, many of whom are former United players seemingly intent on forcing this guy out of their club. Just look at some of these quotes…
“You get the feeling now that he has come to this club and thinks he’s the big fish, he needs to be the one showing off every week, he’s doing things he doesn’t need to be doing on a football pitch. He thinks everybody has got to do his work for him and it’s going against him. We know what he can do, we know what he’s capable of. Once he starts messing about, complicating his game, as soon as he does that it’s a waste of time, he’s no good to your team whatsoever. He’s part of a team, it’s not about him. It’s not just about me doing tricks and being on YouTube and showing Real Madrid or Barcelona how good I am.” – Paul Scholes, after one bad game against Chelsea last season, as quoted by the Metro.
“I wouldn’t believe a word he says. There’s no meaning, no meaning behind it. I don’t even think he believed what he was saying there. He is a big problem, no doubt about it. You’ve got to run back when you’re defending! He said it got a bit heated after the game against Everton; I heard they were actually throwing their hair gel at each other.” – Roy Keane after United’s defeat to Manchester City last season, as quoted by talkSPORT.
“There should never be a debate. Pogba’s missed four of them in the past 12 months. He’s had his chance now. Rashford should take the penalty. There isn’t a leader out there. Someone should be picked as the penalty taker and that’s the end of it. Something’s not right there. This is a Manchester United penalty, not a tombola! Initially I was fuming with Pogba. He’s selfish. Why are you even thinking of taking a penalty off a team-mate? It’s weird.” – Gary Neville on Pogba having the nerve to want to take a penalty against Wolves but then miss it, despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirming this was the system in place, as quoted by the Daily Record.
“I don’t think Pogba is on his way back [from injury] and even if he is on way back, he’ll be moaning about something else to try and not play – try to get his move away from the club.” – Scholes not far off blaming Pogba for being injured and criticising him in advance for doing something he hasn’t, as quoted by the Manchester Evening News.
We could go on really – the nasty personal nature of the attacks on Pogba from former MUFC players would surely be enough to drive anyone away. Even when there’s no doubt he’s often been below-par, it seems obvious to pretty much everyone that this one player is pretty far down on the list of people to blame.
Patrice Evra put it pretty nicely when he said recently, as quoted by the Express: “When he is playing people blame Paul. When he is not playing, people blame Paul. That’s why I think sometimes it is just time (to leave). When you play they blame you, when you don’t play they blame you as well.”
Pogba does not need to prove himself to these obsessive and vindictive pundits. He’ll look at how Romelu Lukaku and even Chris Smalling have improved immensely since leaving United in the summer and know he’s capable of doing the same, as he did at Juventus and as he’s done time and time again in the French national team. He’s not the first to struggle in this chaotic setup at Man Utd, and he won’t be the last.
It is a damning sign of where United are that such a talented player has been unable to succeed at their club, but it is no longer his problem. He’s given them four years, they’ve given him nothing but mediocrity and done little to protect him from a relentless blame game.
A great career is currently being stifled. It’s time for it to be unleashed somewhere else.