Whilst always a polarizing figure, Paul Pogba still has a vital role to play in the rebuilding of Manchester United into a title competing team.
Since his arrival back at Old Trafford, Pogba has continued to divide opinions of pundits, fans and player, but one thing is without question when he plays well, Manchester United plays well and on his day, Pogba can be one of the best players in the game.
Pogba up to now
His arrival in 2016 was met with lots of excitement from fans who didn’t think they would ever get to see Pogba in a United shirt again.
Pogba settled in relatively quickly although struggled with consistency in a United team under Jose Mourinho that perhaps did not suit the attacking-minded midfielder.
Even so, he played a vital roll in the winning Europa League campaign which included a man of the match performance in the final.
Last season, in a United team that was struggling to the point where Jose Mourinho eventually got the sack, Pogba ended the season with a career-best return, scoring 16 goals and adding 11 assists as well in 47 matches, the best of anyl United player that season.
The icing on the cake was his inclusion in the PFA Team of the Season, the only non-Manchester City and Liverpool player. It seemed as though Pogba was gearing up for a defining 2019/20 season after he remained at the club despite mentioning the possibility of ‘a new challenge’ being mentioned in the off season.
United fans entered the season full of optimism after the quality of football dramatically improved under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the backend of the previous season despite missing out on a Champions League place. With the talk a rebuild about to happen, it made sense that it would be centred around the World Cup winner.
A season of injuries
What has happened since has been a non-stop injury affair which has brought into question Pogba’s commitment, Manchester United’s medical staff capabilities as well as Solskjaers player management skills.
The season started with a flourish as United took apart Frank Lamaprds Chelsea team 4-0 in the season opener with Pogba registering two assists.
The first of Pogba’s injuries came when an ankle injury ruled him out of two matches before a one-match return against Arsenal saw him aggravate the same injury and marked the beginning of a two-month absence.
During that time, United registered just four victories in 10 matches, with it glaringly apparent that, although effective on the counter-attack (victories against Spurs and Manchester City as well as a draw against Liverpool), the team could not break down other teams without him. This included losses to Bournemouth and Newcastle as well as draws against Sheffield United, Aston Villa and Newcastle.
He was then included on the bench against Watford where he was introduced after the Red Devils went 2-0 down with 26 minutes to go. Whilst he could not help turn the score around, Pogba showed in the 26 minutes just how important a player he is in providing creativity in the team.
He then played 45 minutes against Newcastle which was the last time he turned out for Solskjaer having undergone surgery and been on the recovery ever since.
Pogba’s future at United
It looks like we are in for another transfer window filled with speculation over the Frenchman’s future. As usual Mino Raiola is spinning his stories about wanting to bring a player to Real Madrid with Zinedine Zidane having been a long term admirer of the midfielder.
Pogba has remained quiet about his plans for the future with recent social media activity and United interviews only indicating that he is ready to make a return and get back to playing.
The introduction of Bruno Fernandes has been a revelation in Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s side. He has brought the creativity and arrogance that has been needed in the heart of the midfield that has been absent since Pogba’s sideline. While some believe he marks the end of Pogba’s tenure, it could be quite the opposite.
For the past few months, Solskjaer has deployed two defensive midfielders in Fred and Nemanja Matic with the former really coming into his own. However, given that United is commonly known for its attacking prowess, it makes sense for Solskjaer to play two attacking midfielders with just one holding midfielder behind them.
Scott McTominay is another player who has recently returned from injury meaning that Solskajer now has an array of options and will likely have to pick three of either Pogba, Fernandez, McTomninay and Fred.
This means that the midfield can be adapted depending on the opponents.
With Anthony Martial in such good form and Marcus Rashford close to returning from injury, a combination of that duo with a midfield partnership of Fernandes and Pogba should solve any issues United has in breaking down teams, especially with the likes of Daniel James, Mason Greenwood and Odion Ighalo still to come into the equation.
As a player, Pogab will always have lots of critics given the big personality he is, but as a player, he has the ability to turn a game on its head and his World Cup winners medal is a constant reminder of the class act he can be. Given that United are desperate to turn things around quickly and become title contenders once again, keeping Pogba within the set up can only improve this bid.