Pogba must end the debate once and for all

Man Utd player Paul Pogba needs to be more consistent after two contrasting performances in eight days vs City and West Brom

Pogba must end the debate once and for all

Man Utd player Paul Pogba needs to be more consistent after two contrasting performances in eight days vs City and West Brom

16 April 2018 Monday 15:44
Pogba must end the debate once and for all

Jose Mourinho went for broke. Just like at Selhurst Park, when his side badly needed a goal, he rolled the dice. By the time Marcus Rashford came on against West Brom with a quarter of an hour left, United had six attackers on the field and no recognized left-back.

By then, they were 1-0 down to a side 12 points from safety who were winless in 15 Premier League away games and had scored just 26 goals.

Paul Pogba was not about to lead another comeback as he cooled off on the substitutes' bench after one of his worst performances yet in a red shirt.

Just eight days after spearheading United's remarkable recovery in the Manchester derby, the Frenchman was hooked amid fears he could pick up another stupid booking and get sent off.

Quite what was going through his head when he handled Alexis Sanchez's cross midway through the first half was anyone's guess. Pogba laughed off the booking with a rueful smile but it summed up an odd performance, where both he and United lacked the intensity needed to win a game at this level.

That chance was the first and only time he linked up with Alexis Sanchez - a combination that was at the heart of United's derby win - and nothing came off for Pogba despite playing in his favored formation.

Indeed, you get the feeling Mourinho was influenced by that derby display when he again used three midfielders in Pogba's preferred 4-3-3 system despite coming up against the league's basement boys.

With Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic holding the fort, Pogba was handed a free role but he could not find a way through a congested midfield area as United got narrower and narrower.

The 25-year-old tried everything. Peeling off to the left wing, slowing things down, the odd dribble and even a couple of strange sliding tackles. Nothing was coming off and a number of fans were getting on his back. 'Pass the ball Pogba!!' was roared from the terraces at one stage.

So when Anthony Martial's number went up on the fourth official's board, it was hardly a surprise that his compatriot made way before the hour mark.

Pogba, who used to cry when his five-a-side team lost a game on the dust courts of Roissy-en-Brie, naturally did not take the news well. The Frenchman walked past Mourinho without making eye contact, ripped off his wrist tape and made his way up the steps to that iconic home dugout where assistant Silvino Louro gave him a consoling pat.

Having once staunchly defended him, even when he had an off day, Mourinho was not about to indulge his talisman.

"Paul had a yellow card and before that he had a situation not for a second yellow but you never know in football, so I reacted to that," a rain-soaked Mourinho explained post-match.

"Paul’s game was complicated like many others, always one more touch."

Pogba's predicament reflects this United side. Every time they appear to take a step forward, an unexpected setback knocks them two back. When Pogba plays poorly, United play poorly and the results do not lie.

In United’s defeats to Spurs, Bristol, Newcastle, and Sevilla, Pogba was poor. That is what made his City performance so impressive because he helped his side snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

It was heralded as a turning point but Pogba needs that motivation and intensity in every game which, worryingly, does not yet appear to be in his locker.

"I asked if Pogba can do that all the time, the way he played against City. The answer is nope," pal Thierry Henry revealed after the West Brom defeat.

United's priority this summer is a long-term replacement for Michael Carrick who can help Pogba tick.

If we are here a year later and still talking about Pogba's position and form, you really have to wonder whether it is going to happen for him as he enters his peak years.

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