Paul Pogba’s future at Manchester United is once again the subject of speculation after comments from the player over the weekend suggesting he is considering “a new challenge somewhere else”.
The 26-year-old has had a rollercoaster second spell at Old Trafford since rejoining the club in 2016.
Here, Football Paradise looks at the high and lows of his past three years.
Pogba was an inexperienced youngster when he left United in 2012 but he returned four years later as one of the biggest stars in the game. It cost United a then world-record £89.3million to prise him back from Juventus. In a summer in which Jose Mourinho replaced Louis van Gaal as manager, it seemed to be the start of an exciting new era at Old Trafford.
Mourinho had promised Pogba would be at the heart of his side and, although his form was up and down throughout the campaign, his first season back at United ended on a high with two trophies. Pogba was influential in both finals as United won the EFL Cup and the Europa League, also scoring in the latter against Ajax. With nine goals for the season, it was viewed as a promising start with the potential for more.
Pogba’s relationship with Mourinho soured in his second season but he was still a powerful force on his day. One such day came in the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium in 2018, when a magnificent Pogba display denied City the satisfaction of clinching the Premier League title against their rivals. Prior to the game City boss Pep Guardiola claimed he had been offered Pogba months earlier and that prompted a dramatic response. Pogba scored twice as he inspired a fightback from 2-0 down to win 3-2.
Resurgence under Solskjaer
The departure of Mourinho in December 2018 sparked an immediate rejuvenation for both United and Pogba. In a purple patch that added weight to suggestions both had been stifled under the Portuguese, the team embarked on a winning run that rekindled top four hopes. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer freed Pogba from the shackles imposed by Mourinho and he responded, scoring nine goals in 11 appearances.
Fitting in under Mourinho
It took time for Pogba to adjust after rejoining United and he recently admitted it was difficult to come to terms with the greater expectations on him following his world-record move. There were also early signs that he and Mourinho had different ideas over how he should play. His display in a 2-1 defeat to City in September 2016 was particularly ragged as he struggled in an apparently defensive role.
The early problems were put down to the settling-in process but Pogba’s relationship with Mourinho clearly became strained as time went on. There was a heated debate on the touchline during a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham in January 2018 and the pair were said to be “barely on speaking terms” a couple of months later. This overshadowed Pogba’s second season which, with only six goals, did not show the expected improvement. He was dropped for a crucial Champions League clash against Sevilla and another big game against Liverpool. He was also sent off for a dangerous tackle at Arsenal.
World Cup comedown
Pogba was outstanding as France won the World Cup in 2018 and then started the following season with a bang by scoring after just three minutes of the opener against Leicester. Having been made captain, it seemed he was ready to impose himself but that early promise was immediately punctured in his post-match interview. “There are things I cannot say, otherwise I will get fined,” he said, cryptically, about life at the club. A month later he was stripped of the captaincy and the strain was evident as he clashed with Mourinho in a training session filmed by TV, apparently over a social media post.
Fallout with fans
Pogba’s initial resurgence under Solskjaer tailed off towards the end of the season, along with the form of the team. After a humiliating 4-0 defeat at Everton, Pogba claimed the team “didn’t respect ourselves, the club and the fans”. The campaign culminated with a 2-0 home defeat to relegated Cardiff and Pogba was singled out for criticism by some fans. He was verbally abused and became involved in an argument with some individuals during United’s lap of honour.
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