Former Manchester United star Patrice Evra has revealed how Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs made life difficult for Paul Pogba during his first spell at Old Trafford.
The France international is now a big name at Man Utd, but he struggled to work his way into Sir Alex Ferguson’s first-team plans during a spell with the club earlier in his career, when he was still a youngster.
Pogba ended up moving to Juventus, where he established himself as one of the finest midfielders in Europe, and that then earned him a big move back to the Red Devils in the summer of 2016.
Since then, Pogba has once again had a challenging time in Manchester, even if the circumstances have been rather different.
Scholes has been among the pundits who often seem to single Pogba out when the team is not playing well, and while that’s a tad unfair on the 28-year-old, it’s also hard to argue that he’s really shown his best form for much of his time in the Premier League.
It’s interesting, therefore, to see that Pogba has a bit of a history with Scholes, and also with Giggs, according to Evra.
“Paul Pogba was quiet when he first joined United in 2009; young players are often timid. I knew little about him other than that, according to Rio Ferdinand, he was a good player,” Evra told the Times.
“Scholesy and Giggsy used to smash him in every training session. Paul would be tackled so hard that he’d be on the floor.
“When he moaned that training was tough because they were kicking him, I told him that if he kept crying, then they would kick him more. Scholes, I said, used to kick me every day when I arrived, and when I asked him why he kept kicking me, he just looked at me and said, ‘Why not?’
“One day in early 2012, he came to see me and said, ‘I have something to say to you. I’m going to leave United.’ I replied, ‘You are making a big mistake, Paul. I respect your decision and it’s your life, but you have worked hard to get the respect of the senior players. I’m not talking about the fans or the manager, but to win that from the players means you’re special.’”
Evra added that he did his bit to try to persuade Pogba to stay at United, but it’s clear that things really spiralled out of control when the Frenchman appointed Mino Raiola as his agent.
“When Paul switched to the agent Mino Raiola things went from bad to worse with Sir Alex Ferguson,” Evra said. “They had a meeting and it was a disaster.
“Ferguson told me that Raiola asked for too much and didn’t even know if Pogba was left or right-footed, yet Raiola had simply replied with, ‘I know his value.’
“I adore Sir Alex, but Raiola is liked by players because he does what’s best for them. If the players are motivated by money then he talks numbers to them. Some of his players are, but Paul just wanted to play first-team football. The boss really wanted to keep Paul and I think he even went to his house to speak to his family, but it didn’t have the desired effect.
“The boss then asked me to see Paul at his home in Sale, and I was there for three hours as I explained to his mother how Paul could be to Manchester United what Patrick Vieira was to Arsenal. I told Paul’s family that I would protect him, that United was the best place for his development. They were listening but Paul said nothing, merely looking lost. Paul’s brothers stepped up and said, ‘Ferguson doesn’t respect my brother; even when there were injuries he played Rafael in midfield against Blackburn.’
“The next day, I told the manager where I’d been. He thanked me but said he was convinced that Paul had already made his mind up. He was right. I said to Paul in training, ‘What’s wrong with you? You look like a zombie, like you’ve been hit by a truck.’ ‘I didn’t sleep,’ Paul replied. ‘I listened to everything that you said, but I’m sorry, I’m going to Juventus.’”