Paul Pogba’s first season back at Manchester United has been a qualified success. He was usually good, sometimes poor, and occasionally sensational. For some, the instances of him dominating matches were all the more frustrating because of their infrequent occurrences. For others, they were signs of this generation’s next great central midfielder finding his feet in a new team and a new league.
A favorite game of Pogba’s critics is to point at his world record transfer fee or the marketing campaigns that surround him, as if the player himself has anything to do with either. “Lazy” is another label that is easy to throw around when the Frenchman is being discussed - usually by the same people who are quick to describe the league’s most technically gifted midfielder as “raw” or “athletic.” This, despite that fact that Pogba covers more distance on the pitch than media darling N’Golo Kanté.
A total haul of 9 goals and 5 assists doesn’t quite jump off the page, especially for a player who started almost every match when fit. But anyone who has watched United this season will admit that Pogba’s assist total (and United’s position in the league table, for that matter) would be significantly higher if the players ahead of him were finishing chances reliably. Before his injury, he had completed more passes and created more chances than any other player in the league. And as for his goals, the fact that Pogba’s efforts hit the woodwork a baffling 9 times this season point to likely improvement in that area as well.
Even focusing on Pogba’s immense promise does something of a disservice to the player he already is. While this season may have fallen short of expectations, it is also littered with examples of his undeniable quality. He tries things on the pitch that no one else can, or dares. His range of passing is second to none, and while he doesn’t always pick the right pass, there is no doubt that his skill set makes every option available to him.
We have yet to see the best of Paul Pogba in a United shirt, but what we saw this season was still pretty damn good.
José Mourinho approval rating: Two defiant fingers up to the doubters.