Paul Pogba returned to Old Trafford in August for a world-record £89 million from Juventus, four years after he left the club for under £1 million.
For such a high profile move, and hefty price tag, Pogba has had his fair share of critics, but that comes with the territory of being the most expensive footballer of all time. There’s no question that paying £89 million for a central midfielder was an inflated price due to the state of the market in football, and Juventus knowing that United had the financial power and willingness to spend that much money, but that’s not to say Pogba didn’t command a high transfer fee.
And it’s fair to say that the Frenchman took his time to settle back in at Old Trafford. After an impressive debut display against Southampton, Pogba failed to stamp his authority on matches from defensive midfield, being exposed for a lack of tactical awareness in defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea.
However, there has been a clear change in Pogba’s play since that hammering against Chelsea, which is also the last time the Red Devils were defeated in the Premier League. Jose Mourinho, a mastermind tactician, brought Michael Carrick into the team, pushing Pogba forward into a creative role behind the striker, transforming the Frenchman’s confidence and performance.
From that moment on, Pogba has been a talismanic figure in the United midfield. Standing at six feet and four inches, possessing great strength and incredible running power, Pogba is a giant in the midfield, and is more often than not too much to handle for opposition midfielders.
The explosive energy Pogba brings is trumped, however, by the creativity he has provided United. Despite only registering five assists, Pogba has created six other clear chances that haven’t been converted by United’s attack, which has the worst conversion rate in the league.
The biggest surprise to his play has been the incredible passing range he has displayed upon his return to the Theatre of Dreams. The Frenchman can dispatch the ball from deep in midfield to find either winger or centre forward with incredible accuracy. He has provided the Red Devils with the midfield catalyst that has arguably been missing since Roy Keane left Old Trafford.
It’s understandable that Pogba has received criticism for his poor performances in the big games this term. His showings against Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are not befitting of a world-class player. Nor was his performance in the EFL Cup final against Southampton, but it was nowhere close to being as bad as the mainstream media would have you believe.
Pogba has been, and will be, a terrific United signing despite the price tag. At 23 years-old, providing he steers clear of injury or transferring away from Manchester, Pogba will be able to look back on his Old Trafford career having been an incredible player for the club.
But his price tag means that he will attract criticism wherever he goes. Media scrutiny over changes of haircut and the dab dance move have been hugely over-zealous and quite frankly, plain stupid.
The commercial success Pogba has experienced is greater than any player of his generation. He represents a changing football world where commercial value comes far closer to on-pitch ability than ever before. But once you look beneath the Pogba brand, you’ll find a world-class midfield player that could dominate the Premier League for years.