Lay off Pogba, blame Zla­tan

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS - JOR­DAN CLARKE

AHEAD of this sea­son’s Premier League cam­paign, Manch­ester United were looked upon in fear once again. A world record sign­ing along with a world class man­ager, Jose meant busi­ness, or so we thought.

Re­sults are ev­ery­thing in foot­ball, af­ter all, it’s a re­sults based busi­ness. You can play beau­ti­ful foot­ball, but if a rough and tum­ble style of foot­ball can over­come your foot­balling mas­ter­piece, then per­haps it’s not the mas­ter­piece you once thought it was and that’s been the story of most of United’s sea­son as of yet. Whether it’s Mark Clat­ten­burg, Tom Heaton or Olivier Giroud, there’s al­ways one more red-light on Jose Mour­inho’s road to suc­cess as United man­ager.

There have been pos­i­tives, though – Span­ish duo Juan Mata and An­der Her­rera’s ex­quis­ite form have re­sulted in the pair be­com­ing un­drop­pable and Ivo­rian Eric Bailly’s rise to the fore meant the cen­tre­back drew com­par­isons with United greats such as Ne­manja Vidic and Rio Fer­di­nand.

How­ever, United’s fail­ure to pick-up points this sea­son has over­shad­owed French­man Paul Pogba’s per­for­mances com­pletely.

In the cen­tral mid­field role, many have tried and many have failed. Bas­tian Sch­we­in­steiger, Mor­gan Sch­nei­der­lin, Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fel­laini have all re­sorted to an­other po­si­tion or even worse, to the bench.

The per­fect mix in mid­field has been hard to find at Old Traf­ford in re­cent times but through Michael Carrick, Pogba, and Her­rera, they looked to have found it.

United’s prob­lem this sea­son has been in the goals department. The in­ca­pa­bil­ity to kill games off has come back to bite them against both Stoke City and Arse­nal this sea­son, whereas against Burn­ley, de­spite Heaton’s heroics, they couldn’t find a way past the goal­keeper.

Pogba has been the cen­tre of at­ten­tion ever since his re­turn to United this sea­son, which is to be ex­pected when you carry the world’s most ex­pen­sive player tag on your shoul­ders, but the pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of his per­for­mances in red is far from the cor­rect one.

Pogba has added that in abun­dance and if ego-ma­niac Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic had been on form, both against Stoke and Burn­ley, Pogba could have been just short of an as­sist count in dou­ble fig­ures.

When United landed Pogba’s sig­na­ture, the player was on hol­i­day af­ter a long Euro 2016 cam­paign, mean­ing Pogba had no pre-sea­son un­der his belt, forc­ing United and Mour­inho to ex­per­i­ment with their No. 6 in Premier League games.

Up un­til re­cently, Mour­inho hadn’t cracked the mys­tery of who would part­ner his £89m ad­di­tion, but now he has. Pogba has been given a new lease of life and is able to be less con­cerned about his de­fen­sive re­spon­si­bil­i­ties due to Carrick’s sta­bil­ity in hold­ing mid­field, shown as he scored at the Lib­erty Sta­dium in United’s 3-1 win be­fore the in­ter­na­tional break.

In Satur­day’s draw against Arse­nal, in­ter­na­tional team­mate Oliver Giroud’s late goal wiped clean the in­bound praise Pogba was about to re­ceive for his con­trol­ling mid­field dis­play, show­ing again how United’s fragili­ties have over­shad­owed their star man’s per­for­mances.

Some­thing that is com­monly for­got­ten about Pogba is that he is 23 years of age, and with years left of devel­op­ment in­side him, judg­ing him and his price tag while in his first sea­son in the Premier League is some­thing that may come back to bite you.

When look­ing at United’s po­si­tion in the league, per­haps it’s easy to think a cri­sis is on the cards, but the ques­tion that should per­haps b e asked is if Louis van Gaal had con­trol of this team, what sit­u­a­tion would they be in?

United’s squad depth has meant last sea­son’s won­der An­thony Mar­tial has been pushed down the peck­ing order, and now Mour­inho has seen an hon­est assess­ment of his play­ers, the Por­tuguese boss will have an idea who fits within his plan and who does not, mean­ing in the near-fu­ture, Mour­inho’s side will be full of play­ers who want to play for him and for the club.

Go­ing on per­for­mances by United this sea­son, it’s not a mat­ter of ‘if it comes to­gether’, it’s ‘when’. – The In­de­pen­dent

Pogba

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