Paul Pogba has failed to live up to expectations since signing for Manchester United from Juventus in 2016.
Manchester United broke the world transfer record to bring the Frenchman to Old Trafford after seeing him deliver outstanding performances in Italy but the club has arguably struggled to get the best out of a player who is unquestionably one of the world’s most gifted midfielders.
At Juventus, the midfielder was part of four Serie A – winning Juventus teams, as well as winning the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa twice each. While in Turin, Pogba made the Serie A Team of the Year on three occasions.
He is also a world champion, having played a key role in France’s 2018 World Cup triumph in Russia. Pogba was also named Best Young Player at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Silverware has been hard to come by at Old Trafford with Pogba winning the Europa League and the Carabao Cup once each as well as earning a place in the PFA’s Premier League Team of the Year on one occasion.
United’s best position in the league since Pogba arrived is second place in the 2017-18 season, 19 points behind champions Manchester City. They have also been unable to win a single major competition in the last 3 years – marking the worst trophyless stretch in the last three decades.
The Red Devils currently sit 15th in the league with seven points from six matches and no home wins in four games.
Pogba has not made the best of starts to the new season but his performance in Sunday’s home defeat to Arsenal was the lowest point yet. His foul on Hector Bellerin to concede Arsenal’s second-half penalty was the deciding factor in the game and by his own admission a ‘stupid mistake.’
“Maybe I was a bit out of breath and it made me do this stupid mistake,” he said. “I shouldn’t have given a penalty away like that. I’m not the best defensively in the box but I can learn and work on that.”
Even though he owned up after the final whistle to apologise for his error there is no denying that his performances haven’t been nearly good enough.
The penalty against Arsenal was the third one that he has conceded at Old Trafford in less than four months with one in the 6-1 defeat to Tottenham and the other against West Ham during Project Restart. These mistakes would be forgiven if Pogba’s all-round performances were close to living up to the standards which are expected of him.
Pogba scored his only goal of the season coming off the bench against Brighton in the EFL Cup and came off the bench to assist Marcus Rashford’s winner in Paris against PSG in the Champions League. He also started the 5-0 win against RB Leipzig before the Arsenal game and played a key role in Mason Greenwood’s opener.
However, he has been woeful in the matches he has started this season. He started the first 3 games of the season with the first one ending in a 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace. He started again in the late win against Brighton and Hove Albion but he was substituted after the hour mark after completing just 25 passes and having just 44 touches. He also started in the defeat to Tottenham. He was subsequently dropped to the bench in the wins against Newcastle and Paris Saint-Germain and the draw against Chelsea with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opting for the more dynamic duo of Mctominay and Fred.
Although, Manchester United are currently top of their Champions League group with two wins out of two and a trip to Turkey to face Istanbul Basaksehir up next on Wednesday, they are nine points behind league leaders Liverpool with a trip to Everton on November 7 and if things do not change then even the most impressive of European performances might not be enough to salvage their season.
Pogba’s erratic individual displays have been a symbol of United’s collective inconsistency.
The 27-year-old is a shadow of the player many at United still hope he can become, with his performances summed up in his horror show against Arsenal.
The Reds have made their worst start to a Premier League season in seven years and their enigmatic playmaker needs to put together a long run of good performances to help change their fortunes because for £89 million, Manchester United should be getting their money’s worth.