Prior to this summer’s transfer window opening, many fans wouldn’t have expected Paul Pogba, of all players, to be tangled in a transfer scandal. Despite arriving at Old Trafford just two summers ago, some outlets are reporting the Frenchman is already searching for an escape route.
Rumours have begun to circulate linking Pogba with a move to Catalan giants, Barcelona. An initial £45m + Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes deal was reported to have been submitted – and then rejected by United. However, reports now suggest Pogba is threatening to leave the club if he does not receive a significant pay rise.
I’m not quite sure how naive United must have been to offer Alexis Sanchez the monstrous deal he received without the consequences of unrest amongst other players at the club. Surely, a lot of United’s key players are looking at Sanchez’s supposed £400,000+ per week contract and thinking: “Hey, I deserve that much too.”
The first to lead the revolt, it appears, is Paul Pogba.
Although he’s been marketed as the club’s poster boy in the last two years, there’s no doubting his displays on the field – when on form – are hard to match. He’d be a player United would sorely miss, and here’s why:
Paul Pogba’s £89million arrival from Juventus in 2016 marked a new era for Manchester United’s midfield.
The club was blighted by a mostly inadequate midfield for a lot of the early 2010s, into the post-Fergie era. The only figure of stability in that area of the field was Michael Carrick, whom United was seemingly over-reliant on.
Pogba brought a level of skill and physicality that hadn’t been seen in the United midfield for quite some time. In his debut season, he worked at his best in a free-roaming role on the left of a midfield three alongside Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera.
Last season, he tallied six goals and 10 assists. Not a bad record considering he missed the end of 2017 with injury.
However, Jose Mourinho opted to implement a number 10 into his squad after Jesse Lingard enjoyed a successful spell there. This meant that Pogba would be limited in a midfield two alongside Nemanja Matic, with very little creative freedom.
Towards the end of last season, Mourinho began to come to his senses. A 4-3-3 system -which favoured Pogba immensely – was brought in. But, here, cracks began to show in the Gaffer’s relationship with his star midfielder.
Granted, it’s unfair to compare these Pogba stats to Herrera and Matic, as they’re all stylistically completely different players. However, Pogba’s departure would leave a massive hole in United’s overall creative output.
Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is included purely for the fact he is the big-money name tipped to replace Pogba if he leaves. Also, his playing style is remarkably similar.
Out of the four, Pogba tallies the most assists with ten, followed by Milinkovic-Savic in second with three. Note that Pogba also did so by featuring in four fewer games than the Serb, equating to over 400 minutes less.
In terms of key passes, however, Milinkovic Savic gets the better of Pogba. The United midfielder tallied just 25 total key passes, 17 fewer than the Lazio man.
However, with the total chances created in the league last season, Pogba again falls second to Milinkovic-Savic. He tallied 35, compared to Milinkovic Savic’s 45. Although, if Pogba had started the same number of games, he could have easily narrowed the gap.
Finally, perhaps one of the most important statistics in the Mourinho era is the total number of forward passes.
Unsurprisingly, Nemanja Matic comes out on top out of the four. United’s Serbian enforcer has been the core of the squad, linking play from defence to the attack.
Luckily, Pogba closely followed, making 1084 forward passes in nine fewer games. This shows Pogba’s desire to drive his team-mates forward, an otherwise lacking trait in United’s starting XI.
Manchester United would be stupid to let a player of Paul Pogba’s talent leave without fulfilling his full potential. It’s obvious that the key to Pogba’s success is ensuring the player is happy.
On the one hand, I agree with Jose Mourinho‘s philosophy in that no one is exempt from criticism, nor, in fact, bigger than the club.
On the other hand, however, having a group of players who are happy with their coach and the football they are playing is vital in achieving success.
If a drastic increase in wages is what keeps Paul Pogba happy, then when not give it to him? It’s not like they’ve spent too much this summer to not afford it…