“When he struts he is some player.”
Peter Drury’s words after a Champions League goal from Paul Pogba, from the 2018/19 campaign when he individually was brilliant through a season of very low lows and some memorable quasi-highs. The highs, both that season and throughout his time at Manchester United, mostly came when Pogba was strutting. When he could be himself, and when the team could match his swagger, Manchester United were a beautiful team to watch.
The best bits were undoubtedly under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the man who wanted to build around Pogba. Pogba moved around the most under him, playing as a 10, a wide creator, a deep-playmaker, anywhere Solskjaer could get the most out of his most creative player.
Ultimately however it didn’t work, and thus the legacy of Pogba at United will forever be a failure in matchmaking. Pogba is a great player, but he spent some of his prime years in a team that lacked identity, structure, and purpose. His reputation has suffered for it, and his legacy might too.
Paul Pogba was always out of place in whatever Manchester United team he played in. In no season was he ever part of a squad that best suited his abilities, nor one which he best suited their ambitions. Pogba is an entertainer, and while he was able to entertain for stretches of his United career he was never able to meaningfully contribute to whatever rebuild was starting or restarting at the club.
In the wake of the team’s failures, Pogba became a target for fans and media due to his high profile and high price tag. Much of it crossed a line, and some of it was either blatantly or passively racist or Islamophobic.
Pogba also owes no apologies for his commitment to having a life outside of football, and while some criticism of him seems well intentioned, a lot of those criticisms rub the wrong way for a number of reasons. The root of the criticism is that Paul Pogba didn’t live up to the hype upon his return, and the whole truth is that for a lot of reasons he didn’t.
It shouldn’t be a reason to dehumanize him, or to slander him and act like he isn’t a brilliant player. Pogba will likely find success again before it’s all said and done, and while all parties involved likely regret most of his time back at Old Trafford there isn’t much point dwelling.
Instead we should say farewell and good luck, as we should always strive for a kinder world with better football.