Arriving with a Stormzy music video and the biggest price tag in football history, it’s fair to say that Paul Pogba was welcomed back to Manchester United in the grandest way possible.
The transfer fee was the most lucrative amount of money paid for a player at the time, with the Frenchman’s return to the club symbolising a hopeful ‘return’ for United themselves.
Nearly four years on since the notorious deal though, the Red Devils still find themselves in an unstable position, still grasping at the opportunity to appear in the Champions League. Amongst the struggles post Sir Alex Ferguson, it’s quite clear that the midfielder is far from being the biggest issue at United.
Why the hard time?
Given the price tag that Pogba arrived with, it was always expected that his performances would be viewed under a microscope by pundits and fans. From a misplaced pass to a shot off target, the internet has always been desperate to point a flaw in the Frenchman.
Having returned back to Manchester in 2016 on the back of a 10g and 10a season with Juventus, a club where he established a reputation in being one of the most exciting talents across Europe, the entirety of United’s expectations was placed on the 23-year-old’s shoulders.
After years of misery and failure post Sir Alex, the Red Devils were crying out for a superstar to help elevate the team to their desired level at the top. Ever since Pogba first stepped back out onto Old Trafford’s field, he was already losing a fighting battle.
Pundits quickly jumped on his back and the Frenchman’s attitude was soon being labelled the cause for United’s poor performances. After three years of incompetent buying and rebuilding from the club’s officials and owners, singling out the side’s central midfielder for such problems was simply laughable.
Jose Mourinho, as he has done with every club he has managed, soon drew tension with the dressing room’s central personality. Both he and Pogba shared an awkward encounter on Sky Sports during a training session, bringing more forced negativity onto the team.
Whilst it would be wrong to overlook the fact that the Frenchman’s performances have not always been up to scratch, judging Pogba’s ‘success’ as a signing seems to have a much different criteria to others in the Premier League.
No platform for anyone to succeed on
When you sit back and analyse United’s recruitment under Ed Woodward, people seem to forget the number of superstars that have miraculously failed harder than Pogba. Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are a few that spring to mind, with part of their struggles also coming down to the fact that the team is being overlooked by an incompetent figure.
The transitioning of the club into the post Sir Alex Ferguson era was never going to be a smooth one, but Woodward, in footballing terms, as failed on nearly all fronts. There has been a distinct lack of focus and pragmatic planning for the team from above, meaning no player or manager in recent years has had a stable platform to succeed on.
We have seen the club constantly shoot down different avenues and recruit polarising transfer profiles, with the lack of objective of building towards one common goal seriously affecting United’s stature. Such a lack of progression can be blamed upon Woodward, who has overseen this mess.
It’s ludicrous to suggest that the selling of Pogba would be a step forward in rectifying such a situation. If anything, it would feel like another step backwards in the club’s development, as the blame would yet again be diverted away from the powers at the top.