Paul Pogba’s role as captain in Antonio Valencia’s absence has shown the club and Mourinho’s commitment to keeping the player happy and feeling important, but is it anything more than that? Paul Pogba is already a leader on the pitch and in the dressing room at Old Trafford, one deserving of the captain’s armband, but if his intention is in fact to leave as soon as possible then giving him the armband is futile.
It’s impossible to know for sure that Pogba wants out, but even given what’s been presented there is reason to worry.
First, when Pogba arrived in Manchester a week before the season opener against Leicester City there was more speculation about his future than there was activity on his social media, despite being one of the most active members of the squad. Most of the regulars had posted something about their return, but not Pogba.
The sight of Pogba as captain put many worried minds at ease, but when handed an opportunity by the media to put the speculation to bed Pogba responded with, “There are things that I cannot say, otherwise I will get fined.”
Between embarrassing losses to Brighton and Tottenham Pogba’s name was again linked to a move away from Old Trafford by none other than his agent, the notorious Mino Raiola. Raiola attacked Paul Scholes on twitter for his comments on United’s lack of leadership, specifically naming Pogba as an inconsistent player.
Raiola’s responded with two tweets:
“Some people need to talk for fear of being forgotten. Paul Scholes wouldn’t recognize a leader if he was in front of Sir Winston Churchill. @paulpogba”
“Paul Scholes should become sports director and advise Woodward to sell Pogba. Would be sleepless nights to find Pogba a new club @paulpogba”
Regardless of it being an emotional response, it’s never good to see a player’s agent rant like that, especially in this day and age where agents have much more influence over players and transfer decisions. However, if Pogba truly wants to leave there’s more he could be doing to sabotage his situation, especially considering the drama that has continually followed United since the start of the window.
This is a tricky situation for United. Pogba is one of the best midfielders in the world, and his influence on the pitch is unmatched by other midfielders at the club currently. At times it’s been hard to argue that his impact has lived up to the hype, but he’s still part of the spine of a very talented young side. If this team can find consistency and more chances at silverware it’d be harder for him to turn down the option of staying at the club.
Pogba is a player easily frustrated by critics, but he’s also been known to show up when they start talking. Early last season he answered the call and led a ferocious charge out of the gate for United after his first season came under the microscope. Injury and suspension derailed his good form, and caused him to miss the important Manchester Derby fixture in December as City took control of the title race. After some months of fluctuating performances he once again found form near the end of the season, dragging United back into the second derby fixture of the season in a dramatic 3-2 comeback win.
Now he’s fresh off of a World Cup win, one that he played a pivotal role in for France despite heavy criticism from French fans and media leading into the tournament. He was one of the leaders of a team that won arguably the hardest tournament in all of football, and if there are any positives to take away from his exit rumors it’s that he wants more. Barcelona and Juventus are two clubs where Pogba would be all but guaranteed league titles, cup finals, and probably a shot at winning the Champions League.
It’s clear Pogba thought United would be better off than they are now 3 years into his return, but this is still a team capable of winning and that he is capable of leading. If he left for Turin, Barcelona, or Madrid, he wouldn’t be the player he is at Old Trafford. He wouldn’t be the star — the man — if he left, he’d be another piece brought in to ensure midfield stability for Ronaldo or Messi. Pogba is a leader at United. He is wanted here by the club,
manager, and fans, but if he gives up on his Pogback journey now his legacy will take a hit.
Pogba deserves success, and if he wants it elsewhere he should be allowed to pursue that, but he has the chance to lead Manchester United back to the top with a very special team.