Pog-back in United's bad books
Paul Pogba scored what could be his last goal for Manchester United (Photo: DeFodi / Getty Images)

Pogback! Remember that? The huge staged production announcing the second coming. It wasn't the second coming of Christ, but many fans may have exclaimed "Christ" a number of times since Paul Pogba made the return to Manchester United for a second spell - because it has been a catastrophe.

A world record transfer fee was required to bring back a player that had established himself as one of the best midfield players in the world in a very good Juventus side. The expectation levels go up a tad when that happens.

From the fanfare that announced the comeback, you would have thought any pressure from the fee wasn't being felt by Pogba himself. It seemed the stage was set for him to challenge Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the worlds best crown.

After his first pretty underwhelming season, excuses were being made. Things like the price tag weighing heavy. There were arguments in the media that he had been playing well, and playing within himself for good of the team. The players around him were not on his level, and so on. 

You can accept that he would take time to adjust, but it wasn't unreasonable to accept more for the money and the reputation he had established.

When the Neymar transfer to PSG blew his record fee out of the water, that was one less excuse to use. He would have been expected to produce more regardless, but if the worlds most expensive player tag was affecting him then that problem went away when PSG gave Barcelona that lorry load of cash.

Yet his second season was an unmitigated disaster and public spats with Jose Mourinho covered nobody in glory.

Mourinho had been another one of the initial excuses, his pragmatic style not allowing Pogba to flourish. Mourinho got sacked and the incoming Ole Gunnar Solskaer has to a large degree taken the shackles off, yet there is still no sign that Pogba is or even can be the main man.

Shown up by Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes has been an absolute revelation since he joined United. He scores goals, provides assists and creates chances galore. All the things expected of Pogba, but rarely produced.

It was a burden for Pogba no question as United don't possess too many creative players so the emphasis was largely on him. Yet looking at Fernandes and Pogba during a game it's easy to see why one is making a fist of it and the other needs excuses. Application. Desire. A will to win.

Pogba produces moments like the sublime goal that orchestrated the recent comeback against West Ham United. He almost helped do the impossible by popping up with another goal in the defeat to RB Leipzig and cajoling his team-mates for a final push in search of an equalizing goal.

They are examples that are few and far between though, and there seems to be a pattern as to when he turns up. As United approach a Derby game against Manchester City, there are echoes of a game at the Etihad in 2018.

There had been rumours of a fall out between Pogba and Mourinho for months in the press, but leading up to a game that could have won City the league, Pep Guardiola declared that Pogba had been offered to them in the January transfer window.

Why Guardiola spoke out is unclear but it meant Pogba, once again, got the headlines and not for his football. Cue the reminder of his ability. Although United were being ripped apart and trailed 2-0 at half time in the game. Pogba bagged a brace of goals and helped United to a stirring 3-2 victory.

Could he do the same this coming weekend?

Not if Solskjaer has any sense he won't because he should be watching from his living room. On the eve of the Leipzig game - a huge game for United - his rather uncouth agent, Mino Raiola, decided for the umpteenth time to declare that Pogba was best off elsewhere.

Constant speculation

The timing was crass, but it drew more attention to one of his floundering, egotistical clients who seems incapable of making people discuss him for football reasons alone.

Since returning to United Pogba has consistently flirted with Real Madrid, and either he or the classless Raiola have periodically talked about his unhappiness at Old Trafford. Some of the quotes may have been misinterpreted but this has been a constant narrative from one or the other. 

A few United fans were unhappy with United plunging for Pogba after the acrimonious way he left the first time around. Those that gave him the benefit of doubt will be as a minimum deeply disappointed, and this latest statement is surely the last straw for even his ardent fans.

It is best that he goes, and goes as his agent wants, in January. United are a better team without him so from the football side he won't be missed. The circus that surrounds him certainly won't be.

He can go to Madrid, or Juve or anywhere that allows him to spend four or five seconds on the ball, to look around and pick a Hollywood pass. To stroll around the pitch as if he owns it, and star in the odd big game and remind people of his talents. 

If you are that good that you can put in a performance when you want then it shows what sort of a person you are when you only want it on the odd occasion. Maybe he is not that good or maybe it's his attitude.

In all likelihood, it's the latter. That attitude is not good enough at an amateur level but when you are paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a week by your club then it's an obligation to do it week in week out. 

Shattered dreams

If his agent was out of order and acting without authorisation to talk about Pogba, it could have been nipped in the bud very quickly. It has been a constant, so Pogba is as culpable as the tacky Raiola.

Except Pogba is more culpable because Raiola is not the one who has been stealing a living for the past few years. He may be unscrupulous, but he delivers money - which seems to be the driving force behind hiring him - to his clients. Pogba has delivered shattered dreams.

Solskjaer has been pushed into a corner. It's clear that Pogba has the ability and Solskjaer recognises that. But even before Raiola piped up, you can't trust him to show it. Should he leave him out now? Or persevere?  

Solskjaer himself did not need the distraction in what is a critical period for United, but possibly more so for him. The defeat to Leipzig has put more pressure on his job and this is a situation that needs decisive management. 

Pogba has a huge following on social media and his profile is one that Ed Woodward seems to want at United. So sponsorship may take a hit should he be sold.

There is a way that Woodward and United could recoup the lost revenue though. Buy more characters like Fernandes and achieve success on the pitch. Just a thought.

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