When Paul Pogba moved to Manchester United from Juventus for a world record fee of £89.3 million last summer, the football world went berserk. How would a mere midfielder cost so much? Also considering he was a United academy graduate that left for Turin for free in 2012 only to come back with an exorbitant price tag made the deal all the more staggering.
Once the football season had kicked off, the world’s most expensive man was struggling to fit into the picture. The 24-year old was used in multiple positions both offensively and defensively but nothing seemed to click. Pogba’s poor start on his return to Manchester was not what an £89.3 million man should be delivering but that was the reality and it was costing the Red Devils results.
Pogba became the subject of excessive banters and rants on social media so much it affected his confidence on the field of play. It was as though the £89.3 million transfer fee had gone down the drain and United’s season would only get worse.
However, it was only a matter of time before things would get better.
By the time Jose Mourinho got the right blend and balance in the squad, Pogba began to flourish and the results started coming in. Pogba was playing alongside either Ander Herrera or Michael Carrick and the presence of the two talented holding midfielders gave him room and space to charge forward, connect with the frontmen and also create goal scoring chances.
Paul Pogba became a renewed man and key figure in how United where playing. He forged a superb partnership with talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic and was spraying superb passes for his team mates which led to many goal scoring opportunities.
At this point, life without Pogba was incomplete.
After losing 4-0 to Mourinho’s former employers Chelsea in October, the Red Devils went on a 25 game unbeaten run in the league. Though much of this spell saw more draws than wins, United became more assertive especially in the middle of the park and Pogba was at the heart of it.
Pogba completed a total of 2,178 passes in the Premier League which was the fourth highest behind Cesar Azpilicueta, Granit Xhaka and Fernandinho. He was leading the pack as at when United defeated Chelsea 2-0 back in April but missing a few games towards the season’s run-in meant he was overtaken.
At 75%, Pogba had a better tackle success rate than the league’s best defensive midfielder in N’Golo Kante which stood at 65%. Also, the 24-year old’s average of 72.60 passes per game was the highest of any player this season.
Since finishing in the top four was proving to be a herculean task for Mourinho, it became imperative that focus be made on winning the Europa League which guaranteed automatic qualification into the Champions League.
They achieved that by beating Ajax Amsterdam 2-0 in the final in Stockholm, with Pogba getting the opening goal, his third of the competition and his ninth overall for the season. With 863 complete passes and average passing accuracy of 83%, no midfielder dazzled in Europe’s second tier tourney than the 44-time capped French international.
Paul Pogba’s return to Manchester United at the end of the day wasn’t a failure. The team might not have reached the heights this season, with a poor sixth place finish in the Premier League. That however doesn’t change the fact that the former Juventus man was instrumental to the team’s success.
The earlier banters on social media would probably be eating their words now because Pogba has proven everyone wrong. All that is simply needed is to pair Pogba with players that give him the creativity and freedom to express himself on the pitch, the way Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio did during the Frenchman’s days at Juventus.
With the glimpse of what Pogba has shown this season and at just 24 years of age, we could be seeing someone worth the £89.3 million fee bringing unprecedented success back to Old Trafford and probably turning out to be one of the finest midfielders ever to grace the beautiful game.
Photo source: Zimbio.com