Pogba nam­ing Anelka an in­flu­ence must worry United

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

LON­DON: The name at the top of Paul Pogba’s list of big­gest ca­reer in­flu­ences was in­trigu­ing, though not en­tirely promis­ing from a Manch­ester United perspective.

It was Ni­co­las Anelka, the Parisian with whom he has never played in the same team but who, since the two share Parisian roots, has be­come more of a men­tor for the player 14 years his ju­nior than many had ap­pre­ci­ated.

The rev­e­la­tion was made in the match day pro­gramme for Sun­day’s 1-1 draw with Liver­pool and the next man on Pogba’s list was the in­di­vid­ual it is thought might have been in­stru­men­tal in the two know­ing each other – Pa­trice Evra, who is close to Anelka. Evra, Pogba said, is also the in­di­vid­ual to whom he most looks for ad­vice.

“He’s fam­ily. That’s how I see him,” Pogba said. “He’s al­ways looked after me and given me ad­vice.”

The Anelka link is the more in­ter­est­ing one, though. They shared a chal­leng­ing start to ca­reers in Eng­land, though Anelka cer­tainly made a more im­me­di­ate hit at Ar­se­nal in the late 1990s than Pogba, pic­tured, did at United.

They share a will­ing­ness to chal­lenge au­thor­ity and, specif­i­cally, to run up dra­mat­i­cally against the me­dia. The ges­ture Pogba made to­wards the French press dur­ing last year’s Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships, hav­ing been evis­cer­ated by some writ­ers for his per­for­mance against Ro­ma­nia pro­voked the trend­ing of #boy­cottle­quipe on Twit­ter.

It re­flected Anelka’s own sen­si­tiv­ity to such crit­i­cism. There is a par­tic­u­larly vivid film of him on YouTube, ap­par­ently sit­ting in his own front room, rag­ing into his phone camera about the French me­dia for al­ways find­ing fault. “If you love some­one, you ig­nore faults,” he tells “Mon­sieur La Presse”.

Pogba walked out of the Old Traf­ford mixed zone on Sun­day af­ter­noon with Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic, who stopped to talk, and the screams which ac­com­pa­nied him as he en­coun­tered fans mo­men­tar­ily drowned out the Swede’s at­tempt at con­ver­sa­tion. It was the kind of re­cep­tion de­signed to give a 23-year-old no pause for thought at what had been an in­dif­fer­ent per­for­mance, in which his naivety had seen a penalty con­ceded.

Ibrahi­movic was asked whether he thought that Twit­ter mak­ing Pogba the sub­ject of its first player emoji and the #pogba ad­ver­tis­ing hoard­ings which blinked up through the game was wise, con­sid­er­ing he is still mak­ing his way. He made it clear that it is not the world as he once knew it.

“I think foot­ball is like that to­day,” the 35-year-old said. “When I started to play foot­ball there was no so­cial me­dia, none of th­ese things. We just fol­low the game.”

The two share an agent, Mino Raiola, and know each other, so of course there would be noth­ing off mes­sage.

“Pres­sure is some­thing I en­joy. I don’t know Paul per­son­ally to be­able to an­swer that for him. But I think he likes it also.”

The im­pres­sion left by two big Old Traf­ford games this season, against Manch­ester City and Liver­pool, is that it is con­trol and calm on the big oc­ca­sion that Pogba must add to his game.

He told the match pro­gramme that “to be­come a big team you have to be good on the pitch and good in the head”, though there is some­thing of the Anelka in him.

José Mour­inho spoke of Pogba last week as a future cap­tain, though the ob­ser­va­tion was a re­sponse to the no­tion be­ing put to him. An­der Her­rera looks a far more vi­able suc­ces­sor to Wayne Rooney and Michael Car­rick.

Anelka has not been an ad­vo­cate of United as the place for Pogba to de­velop. He said his pref­er­ence for his friend after Ju­ven­tus was Chelsea, who had stronger play­ers and more fi­nan­cial power.

United will hope their player can ma­ture and lose a lit­tle of his Anelka spirit: a ten­dency not to hang around in one place, al­ways chas­ing the money. – The In­de­pen­dent

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