While the jury is still out on Paul Pogba and his return to Manchester United, with every passing game the question looms larger – was Sir Alex Ferguson right to let the player go in the first place?
No player is worth £89 million, so when that price tag is placed on your shoulders it must weigh heavy. Paul Pogba may seem a confident bubbly personality of the the sort that such a fee would make little difference to his performances. The fact remains, however, that Manchester United fans and manager, José Mourinho, have only seen glimpses of his quality and questions are already being asked of the club’s wisdom in paying such a fee for the France international.
With more new haircuts than decent performances, the 23-year-old seems to think about ridiculous celebrations and how good his hair looks rather than getting his head down and repaying such a fee with performances worthy of a £89 million player.
When you arrive at a new club for such a price you may think you have made it, yet the hard work has only started as you now have to prove your worth. While it may be hard to justify such an astronomical transfer fee, Pogba has come nowhere near to doing so, yet.
Where are the leaders in the dressing room, throwing an arm around the shoulder and telling him to focus, to concentrate on being the player the club and fans expect? Imagine Roy Keane in the Manchester United team of today. He would not stand for performances such as Sunday’s, when United were destroyed by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Wayne Rooney has taken a lot of stick for United’s poor form of late, yet he was not involved on Sunday, and if he was he would not have gone hiding like Pogba and many others. He is the captain even when not on the field.
In the absence of Keane, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, club legends who used to nurture the younger talent at the club for the benefit of its long-term success, Rooney now must step up and guide Pogba to perform to the level he undoubtedly holds in his locker.
Rooney had a host of senior figures who he could turn too in time of need. He must now be that man for Pogba. Cristiano Ronaldo needed guidance from the likes of Keane early in his United career and is quick to acknowledge the role players such as the former United captain had in helping him adjust to playing for such a famous club as Manchester United and the pressure that comes with it.
In the world of social media we now live in, Pogba is doing himself no favours with his off-field activities. Weekly updates on a new hairstyle for the match are not welcome when he rarely, it seems, contributes more to the game.
Football has changed since the days of Keane and co. From the obligatory post-match victory selfie, players hugging and joking in the tunnel before a game, to swapping shirts and laughing with your opponents after a humiliating defeat, football has changed for the worst.
How we long for the days of Roy Keane versus Patrick Vieira; two winners fighting over every inch for their team, yet having total respect for each other.
The current crop of Manchester United players were too busy swapping jerseys with Chelsea players following their defeat to even bother going over to acknowledge the incredible Manchester United fans who out-sang their rivals throughout the game, despite the embarrassing performance they were witnessing.
Most of those United players swapping jerseys were not fit to wear them in the first place. The fans are the beating heart of United, working hard to be there to cheer on their club. At the very minimum, they deserve a similar sense of team and commitment from those chosen few who wear the red of United. Right now there appears to be a distinct lack of character at Manchester United and Pogba is suffering as a result.
While many felt Ferguson was left red faced when Manchester United bought back the midfielder he let go for a mere £800,000, so far the legendary Scotsman has been proven right. United’s former manager felt Pogba was not the right type of character for Manchester United, with his demands apparently leaving a sour taste in Ferguson’s mouth.
New boss Mourinho must find a system that suits Pogba, one that gets him on the ball more often and lets him become the player we know he can be. Failing that, it could end up being another costly mistake by Manchester United.
The ball is in Pogba’s court now. He must decide if he wants to be a model, or a role model.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena