Pogba may have said it was his ‘destiny’ to return to Manchester United in 2016 but he hasn’t fulfilled any of it
The France international, who won the World Cup and Nations League while at United, never matched his blues Appearances with those in a red shirt.
Paul Pogba will go down in history as one of the greatest mysteries of the Premier League era. How the world’s most expensive footballer, returning to play for arguably the biggest club in the world, failed to shine when Manchester United needed him most.
He was supposed to rejuvenate an ailing squad, advance them and bring the cutlery back to Old Trafford.
But while players like Virgil van Dijk and Kevin De Bruyne led their respective clubs Liverpool and Manchester City into a new era of dominance, Pogba never became the leader United hoped to be.
As he prepares to leave Manchester, the finger can point to many spots for United’s failure – both with player and club. Pogba has credited his critics with a serious lack of structure or planning at Old Trafford in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, a willingness to inject money under Jose Mourinho with no sense of future trajectory and a lack of team cohesion during Pogba second stint Manchester has all worked against him.
Not a single manager has fully exploited his potential in countless systems. Or, to put it another way, Pogba has failed to live up to his bill given numerous chances.
In his forthcoming Amazon documentary titled The Pogmentary – a pun almost as embarrassing as the #Pogback tag used when he returned to United in 2016 – Pogba explains why he is leaving United despite him recently offered a £300,000-a-week deal.
“My thought process is to show Manchester [United] that they made a mistake waiting to give me a contract,” says the Frenchman. “And to show other clubs that Manchester made a mistake in not offering me a contract.”
He’s referring to the fact that United were willing to leave the negotiations late and risk Pogba’s contract expiring during the talks, rather than quickly signing him for another deal.
Meanwhile, his agent Mino Raiola – who died in April this year after a long illness – is filmed saying: “We have to try to make you feel as good as we do with the France national team. You are different with them. You understand? You are another Pogba in the Manchester United team. It is not normal.
“With the French team, you are the real Pogba, the Pogba of Juventus, the Pogba that everyone loves. Something is blocking you at Manchester.”
In these words, the attitude of the modern elite footballer becomes clear. You show me I’m wanted and I’ll work for you. The suggestion is that United just had to show their £89million midfielder some love considering how much pay rise you can offer the £290,000-a-week midfielder. Fans would argue that any pay raise would be an undeserved reward for six years of failure.
And yet, when Pogba returned to Old Trafford on a free transfer four years after joining Juventus and is now a newly minted star of midfield with the world at his feet, there was no indication he would need “love” to encourage him to trophies.
In fact, it seemed as if that fate was already destined for him.
“The thing about me is I only think about the pitch,” Pogba said in his first interview after writing his United contract.
“I want to do great things, I want to be one of the best, I want to win titles, I want to achieve things and that’s all; That’s why I came here, just to do this, to be one of the best and win titles, because I know this club needs to win titles.
“This club was created to win titles, win things, win big things. I just focus on that and that’s it. I’m just willing to work on it and just kill it.
Kill it what he did but not the way he intended. Like it or not, Pogba symbolized the malaise that now hangs over Old Trafford. A win in the Europa League and League Cup in his debut season isn’t much to be proud of given United’s place in world football.
It was his signing that would stop the rot caused by David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Mourinho. Winning trophies wasn’t enough. League titles were in demand. The summer of 2016 was to be the deepest low this club would plunge and with Pogba at the helm they would be sailing into a new trophy-filled era.
But if the last six years have taught us anything, it’s that United are just a shell of what they used to be. Ferguson’s fighting spirit has really gone. United are no longer feared.
It’s a club that prioritizes hashtags over trophies and in Pogba they have the ultimate marketing figure. This is now back in The Pogumentary. What a shame his “destiny” wouldn’t be more than that.