In less than a week since a report surfaced that Paul Pogba was requesting double his wages to stay at Manchester United, the Frenchman has looked below standard of late and his recent display against Arsenal was one so poor a few pundits rained in further criticism on him. The shining light so far in this tough period for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United is the consistency that has remained from the unlikeliest of sources – Scott McTominay.
Some United players have faced criticism for below-par performances, but McTominay can hold his head high.
Against Arsenal he was his hard-working self and scored his first goal at Old Trafford for Manchester United.
His long-range strike whistled past a stationary Bernd Leno and into the top of the net, though Gunners midfielder Granit Xhaka has been criticised for allegedly ‘ducking’ out the way of the goal-bound shot.
It isn’t particularly fun being a Manchester United fan in the present day.
There have been some shaky times in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, but it’s hard to think of a worse period of form since the Scotsman left than right now.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have amassed just nine points from their first seven Premier League games, scoring just nine goals in the process (via Whoscored).
It means United have made their worst start to a campaign since the 89/90 season and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under increasing pressure ahead of Sunday’s trip to Newcastle.
Paul Pogba has kept the United hierarchy on strings moving back and forth on a decision to leave the club or see himself get a “ridiculous” massive pay-rise amidst interest from other clubs. Recent happenings now suggest United might be better off letting the Frenchman go as the 26-year-old has failed to deliver anything tangible in the real sense.
Pogba’s under-par performances of late
Pogba was supposed to be the star of the show (rightly so) and had everything set up for him to deliver – especially from a side lacking inspiration in the past couple weeks. Firstly, a player of his stature and calibre at the club should be doing miles better and more so, any player who asks for double his contract wages must certainly be sure of himself to deserve that reward. Right? Well not in the case of Paul Pogba.
Pogba passed a late fitness test to face Arsenal but failed to impact proceedings and his direct opponent, Matteo Guendouzi, was Arsenal’s standout performer.
Keane, who was working for SkySports during Monday Night Football, was highly critical of the Frenchman’s display.
‘They need more from Pogba,’ said Keane. ‘We gave him the big build up before the game – he’s the best player, blah, blah, blah. He was disappointing. So poor.’
Yes United’s attacking players in general might have been disappointing and it’s no surprise Solskjaer and co have not managed more than a goal per match since August but Pogba shouldn’t be anywhere near this list of players – based on his quality.
It’s bad enough that Jesse Lingard has failed to record a goal or an assist in the Premier League in 2019, while Marcus Rashford has just one goal from open play in his last 19 games.
Then you have Andreas Pereira, who continues to be selected in an advanced midfield position despite not scoring in his past 16 games.
But to finish it off, it’s the questionable form of Paul Pogba – United’s key man in midfield.
Solskjaer’s side are reliant on the £89m man for creativity and goals, but he is spectacularly failing with the latter right now.
In his past 26 games for the club, the Frenchman has failed to find the back of the net from open play (stats via Transfermarkt).
Furthermore, his missed penalty earlier in the season also saw his side drop two key points. While it’s not always best to judge a midfielder on goals from open play, that stat is still damning for a player of Pogba’s ilk.
Pogba’s disappointment is Scott McTominay’s gain
It seems Mourinho always knew how much it all meant to the Scotland international. After deploying him as a makeshift centre-half during a 3-1 defeat to West Ham last September, the former United boss praised the player’s attitude.
“He is a special character,” said Mourinho, who gave McTominay his senior debut in May 2017.
“He is a special personality and a team in a negative moment needs this kind of mentality that Scott McTominay has.”
Against Barcelona in the Champions League last season, the midfielder came away with a lot of credit for his display in the 1-0 defeat.
He was superb in the middle of the park, winning the ball, recycling possession, and, most importantly, remaining calm and composed against elite opposition.
And he has continued his consistent form till date. In the season where teammates are underperforming, he has looked a shining light and seems to be the only one with the hunger for results on the pitch.
Against Arsenal, his goal just on the cusp of half time was almost out of nothing and it cast light on a dark stat that emerged in the wake of the game.
27 – There have been no shots in the opening 27 minutes of #MUNARS, the longest wait for a first attempt in a single @premierleague game this season. Stale.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 30, 2019
The Scotland international is surely looking like a “leader” and he could fill in those shoes Pogba has failed to gracefully walk with since his big money move back to Old Trafford. Pogba’s departure could further give room for the 22-year-old to take more responsibility and up his game at the club.
Pogba was keen on leaving Old Trafford last summer but United refused to listen to offers for the midfielder. The issue is expected to return in 2020 and it surely looks like the time is approaching for the club to make a long-term decision on Pogba’s future. Sometimes you just must cut your losses and that’s what United did with Romelu Lukaku and it would appear the same decision should be made for Paul Pogba as well.
Especially when there’s a Scott McTominay that has ticked all the boxes Pogba hasn’t lately, the club should now be looking to get rid of the latter – if a change in his attitude and form isn’t made quickly.