The Paul Pogba puzzle is Manchester United’s biggest failure and they are to blame for inconsistency
Paul Scholes’ recent dissection of Manchester United’s performance has been largely intelligent. Amid the excitement of United’s comeback against Atalanta in the Champions League, it was Scholes who predicted trouble against Liverpool.
However, his comments about Paul Pogba seem less firm. After Pogba’s elimination in the game against Liverpool, Scholes suggested that his tackle on Naby Keita had been ‘ridiculous’ and accused the Frenchman of ‘causing chaos’ in recent years.
I’m not sure how much of that is true. Pogba was over the ball on Keita and had to go. However, there was no malice. He tried to win the ball. He missed. It happens.
Paul Pogba has been criticized for his red card in the 5-0 defeat to Liverpool
In terms of his time at United, the 28-year-old’s five seasons have been a huge disappointment. But chaos? There seems to be little evidence for that.
Pogba is a great footballer who has not shined in his second spell at Old Trafford. He will always carry that with him, I’m sure. But every time I see him play for France, I start to wonder whose fault it is.
Pogba has been fantastic in recent Nations League matches in Italy, leading the French midfield with energy, intelligence and great passion. Pogba is a fantastic passer of the ball, both long and short. He can make ground quickly and use the balls of both feet. He scores goals, good ones.
Paul Scholes accused French midfielder of causing chaos ‘in recent years’
That rarely seems to happen at United. Pogba seems unsure of his role and often tries to overcomplicate things. As such, he makes mistakes. Trying too hard to impress? Could be.
All this reminds me at times of Juan Sebastian Veron’s time at United, all those years ago. He was another midfielder who bombed Old Trafford to constantly look like the class act he undoubtedly was when playing for Argentina.
Veron’s problem was Roy Keane. The United captain did everything Veron was good at and was unwilling to give up ground. There was no place for either of them in Sir Alex Ferguson’s team. Pogba’s problems were less obvious, but there is one similarity. Ferguson’s job was to make his £28 million purchase of Veron work in 2001 and he failed. With Pogba’s arrival in 2016, United’s intention was to build a team around him and they, too, have failed.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (pictured) doesn’t seem to know what Pogba’s best position is
In fact, it is one of their greatest modern failures in a period when there have been many. What is Pogba’s best position for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United? Does anyone know? Did we ever know? It doesn’t seem like it and that points to a succession of coaching failures.
With his contract expiring next summer, Pogba is expected to leave for nothing. Neither United nor Pogba’s representatives want to commit to that.
There is valuable PR ground to gain and lose. But there are no progressive talks about a new deal and it is now November.
And this is something United should be a little bothered by. If Pogba were under contract, there would only be a small number of clubs in Europe that could afford a transfer fee and his wages. But a free transfer is different and that brings English clubs into play.
With his contract expiring in the summer, Pogba is expected to walk away for free again
Picture Pogba at Chelsea or Arsenal. It’s not very far-fetched to imagine him doing quite well at clubs like this one.
The fact is that Pogba has had a successful international career – he has 89 caps and is a World Cup winner – and was a hit at Juventus, where he won Serie A four times. Indeed, the one place where one of Europe’s most gifted footballers didn’t look like a very good player is Manchester United.
So whose fault do we really think that is?
Theorem is a one-off – Sky must continue
When SKY’s esteemed golf anchor David Livingstone retired a few years ago, it felt like the station’s coverage would never be the same. But then Nick Dougherty and Sarah Stirk got in and got on and the world went on. Sky’s wave now feels fresh.
This is why the news that Jeff is leaving Stelling Soccer Saturday shouldn’t necessarily be seen as the end of days by those who like to turn their weekend afternoons around a comfy chair.
Jeff Stelling has confirmed he will be leaving his Sky Sports presenter role after 27 years
Stelling, 66, is an extraordinary broadcaster and journalist and will be missed. But the worst thing Sky can do right now is try to find someone like him. There’s nobody there.
No, this is a chance for their Saturday flagship to evolve, change and reboot. It won’t necessarily be worse in the future, just different.
Stake would doubtless hope so.
Are we losing the conspiracy about the women’s game?
Last Tuesday night Arsenal, Chelsea, Leeds and Sunderland played EFL Cup matches but the BBC website chose to lead their results service with 23 women’s World Cup qualifiers.
In addition to England’s 10-0 win in Latvia, Slovakia defeated Georgia, Hungary defeated the Faroe Islands and Luxembourg defeated North Macedonia. No one says much about it, but everyone thinks it.
Potty to Think Potter will jump
Those Spurs fans hoping the club will replace Nuno Espirito Santo with Brighton’s Graham Potter should think again. They knocked on Potter’s door last summer and no one answered.