The sense of possibility is slowly returning at Old Trafford. It felt so odd that a squad overflowing with riches and headed up by an incredibly successful manager was simply too impressive to fail. However, as Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio discovered, an iceberg can derail even the most incredible of creations. The iceberg that has threatened to sink the boat that is Manchester United, sadly, is not solely made up of one problem. Zlatan’s form dipped, both Rashford and Martial hit their sophomore slump, defenders were constantly injured, and Mourinho’s eccentricities are amplified to ridiculous levels when the Red Devils aren’t taking three points from every fixture.
The biggest problem, however, was the record-breaking purchase sitting right in the middle of he pitch: Paul Pogba. Or, at least, that’s what match commentators, pundits, and anyone with an internet connection was spouting…
…but, I politely disagree. Not that there aren’t problems at United. My disagreement is that Paul Pogba, despite the short amount of time he’s been back in England, should currently shoulder very little of the blame.
“How can you say that!?” the masses may say, “the sheer amount of money spent on its own shows what a mistake this has been!”
It’s not Pogba’s fault that United were willing to pay that sum of money. In modern soccer, you pay for goals. Pogba is a defensive midfielder with the CAPACITY to score goals and make magic happen. He’s not Luis Suarez, he’s not Messi, he’s not Ronaldo, and he shouldn’t be treated as such. Show me the other defensive midfielder in the world that’s being asked to provide a significant portion of goals to their club’s success, and…well…there simply isn’t one. However, Pogba is human…and he knows that, for the hype and money he was snagged with, he is almost required to score goals in order to justify himself.
He needs to stop feeling this way and just play as a defensive midfielder. Let the goals occur naturally and quit putting shots into row Z with a frequency that’s rather alarming. This is a directive that needs to come from management, and a player of Pogba’s age needs to be told to just play some freaking footy.
Mourinho has to provide Pogba with formations that would allow him to either dedicate himself to sitting back or let him play a little more free closer to the attackers. By asking him to cover all that ground, it’s not surprising that the Frenchman looks agitated and quick to make silly fouls when his efforts all over the pitch aren’t rewarded with his team being in the lead.
One of the biggest calls needs to simply be to the fans. The team can ask him to be a defensive midfielder. Pogba can accept that role and commit to it. But, if the masses of United faithful don’t understand what a defensive midfielder’s role is, the amount of abuse coming from the stands could grow to ridiculously high levels. This would really hurt Pogba’s growth as, from what we’ve seen, he is a player that responds strongly to the crowd’s fervor. A negatively charged Old Trafford could really hurt with this situation. It will be a tough sell to say that your team just break transfer records for somebody that is supposed to guard your back four and recycle play, but it’s what needs to happen.
It all comes down to acceptance from the fans, the management, and the player. Pogba isn’t going to (AND ISN’T MEANT TO) score 30 goals a season. Pogba shouldn’t be responsible for the creative burden of United (how can you put that many attacking players on the pitch and still turn to your defensive midfielder…does Barcelona want Busquets to make every goal simple for MSN? NO!). Pogba won’t be earning his transfer fee this season. He won’t be earning it next season. The results will come, United will not be out of the top four forever, and Pogba will have a platform to become a United legend.
The prodigal son may have returned, but the time to crown him as a king of Old Trafford is a coronation that is years away.