Pogba seeks Stock­holm sal­va­tion

New Straits Times - - Sport - AFP

Fol­low­ing a sea­son of fits and starts, Paul Pogba will be ex­pected to de­liver the goods when Manch­ester United play Ajax in the Europa League fi­nal today.

Much like his team, Pogba has shown only fleet­ing flick­ers of form since his world-record £89 mil­lion (RM489.5 mil­lion) re­turn to United from Juventus last year.

With Jose Mour­inho’s side need­ing to beat Ajax to qual­ify for the Cham­pi­ons League, Pogba has a chance to both sal­vage his club’s sea­son and si­lence his own crit­ics.

“When you pay nearly £90 mil­lion for some­one, you would ex­pect them to blow your mind away at times on the foot­ball pitch,” for-

mer Eng­land striker Alan Shearer wrote in The Sun re­cently.

“But there have not been many times — if any this sea­son — when you have watched the former Juventus mid­fielder and thought, ‘Wow.’”

United’s meet­ing with Peter Bosz’s pre­co­cious Ajax team at Stock­holm’s Friends Arena fol­lows a dif­fi­cult pe­riod for Pogba.

The 24-year-old France mid­fielder re­cently spent time on the side­lines with what Mour­inho de­scribed as mus­cle fa­tigue.

Re­ports sug­gest he is re­ceiv­ing on­go­ing treat­ment for a ham­string prob­lem that kept him on the side­lines for three weeks in late March.

It emerged re­cently that world gov­ern­ing body Fifa is in­ves­ti­gat­ing Pogba’s switch from Juventus amid re­ports his agent, Mino Raiola, made £41.3 mil­lion from the deal.

Most gravely of all, Pogba re­cently lost his fa­ther, Fas­sou An­toine, who died fol­low­ing a long ill­ness.

Af­ter a pe­riod of com­pas­sion­ate leave, Pogba re­turned to the start­ing XI against Crys­tal Palace on Sun­day, con­tribut­ing a goal and an as­sist as United closed their league cam­paign with a 2-0 win.

Pogba cel­e­brated his goal by point­ing to the sky above Old Traf­ford and later posted on so­cial me­dia: “My goal is for my Pap.”

Mour­inho con­tin­ues to ex­press sat­is­fac­tion with Pogba’s con­tri­bu­tions, sin­gling out his dis­play on a dif­fi­cult pitch in United’s 1-1 draw away to Ros­tov in the round of 16.

“The way he played in Ros­tov was amaz­ing,” the United man­ager told Om­nis­port.

“He had lit­tle matches where the per­for­mance was not so good, but nor­mally the per­for­mance is re­lated to the team.”

With the in­flu­en­tial Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic side­lined, there is even greater ex­pec­ta­tion that Pogba will stand up and be counted against an ex­cit­ing but cal­low Ajax team.

He has tasted de­feat in the two big­gest matches of his ca­reer so far, los­ing to Barcelona with Juve in the 2015 Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal and fall­ing to de­feat with France against Por­tu­gal in the Euro 2016 de­cider.

Fall short for a third time and his price tag will only be­come heav­ier.

Manch­ester United’s Paul Pogba

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