Paul Pogba has attracted his fair share of criticism since returning to Manchester United for a record fee in the summer of 2016. Bettingreporter.com’s Kurt Boyer looks at a superstar who is again displaying the celebrated form of his earlier years with Juventus.
Paul Pogba of Manchester United is tied for the most goals among Premier League midfielders in 2018-19 with 9 in just 21 appearances, matched only by Icelandic FIFA hero Gylfi Sigurðsson of Everton. Pogba has also collected a roaring 7 assists for the Red Devils.
The 25-year-old Frenchman was instrumental in United’s comeback against Burnley on Saturday, converting a penalty in the 87th minute to set up center-back Victor Lindelöf’s equalizer in extra time. Most importantly, Pogba’s squad has not been beaten in any competition since mid-December.
Wait, what happened to “the most undisciplined player of all time” ?
It was December 11th when Pogba was slapped by Manchester Evening News, which quoted former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher as refusing to place the Les Bleus superstar on a joint United-Liverpool lineup. While it may be clear where Carragher’s sympathies lie as a footballer, debate partner Gary Neville – a legend with MUFC – simply laughed along.
The Red Devils would lose 3-1 to Salah and the Reds at Anfield less than a week later. Pogba and the rest of the United midfield and backline were beaten on a thrilling run from Sadio Mané in the 24th minute, who went on to beat David de Gea to give Liverpool a burst of momentum it would rarely relinquish.
The defeat marked a low point in the United squad’s relationship with former skipper Jose Mourinho. With the club essentially out of the race for top spot on the 2018-19 Premier League table, an embattled Mourinho was sacked on December 18th.
Pogba had been a focal point of nasty innuendo and rumors of coach-player discord throughout the fiery Portuguese manager’s reign. The chances of salvaging a season seemed scant at best.
That was then. MUFC has been a club on fire since installing caretaker Ole Gunnar Solskjær in the vacated coach’s seat. The Red Devils scored 12 goals on the next trio of Matchdays, with a refreshed Pogba netting a pair against Huddersfield on Boxing Day and another double in the follow-up with Bournemouth. In just 180+ minutes of football at Old Trafford, the Frenchman had scored more goals than in his previous 17 appearances.
United had not dropped a point in post-Mourinho league play until waging the 2-2 draw with the Clarets on Tuesday. While the club’s Premiership aspirations may in fact be confined to a top-4 finish, the Champions League and FA Cup could still bring glory to a deserving lineup that includes World Cup dynamo Romelu Lukaku and emerging young attacker Marcus Rashford.
The Red Devils visited Emirates Stadium and defeated Arsenal 3-1 in the FA Cup on Friday, advancing into the 5th Round in an event Liverpool is already missing from. February will bring the maiden leg of a UEFA Round-of-16 meeting with Ligue 1 dynasty Paris Saint-Germain.
Has Paul Pogba regained the elite form of his celebrated days with Juventus? On the attack, it can be argued that Pogba has gotten better. The Russia ’18 gold medalist now has 20 goals in 81 appearances with United, a scoring ratio of almost 1 per 4 matches, compared to an overall 28 goals in 124 matches with Juve. While it can be argued that a large chunk of the player’s Juve minutes were developmental, if Pogba’s recent outings under Mourinho are disregarded his stats with the football begin to look more impressive than ever.
Pogba has a cracking 6 goals and 4 assists in 8 starts since Mourinho’s departure, rivaling any of his streaks of offense with the Old Lady. But what about form when defending?
“Pogba has a cracking 6 goals and 4 assists in 8 starts”
United’s midfielders may bear the brunt of criticism for allowing Burnley’s counterattack to click at Old Trafford on Tuesday. The hosts trailed a pedestrian opponent for almost the entire fixture. But it was Andreas Pereira, not Pogba, who erred fatally on the Clarets’ opening tally.
The Red Devils continued to dominate the match in all phases, however, attempting 28 shots and earning 11 corners. Furthermore, it was Pogba who finally turned the momentum with moments to go.
In fact, any tactical problems United struggled with against Burnley could be chalked-up to Solskjær’s experiment of playing Rashford and Lukaku together in a multi-pronged attack, a wrinkle which seemed to give the entire squad an anxious vibe from the start.
Paul Pogba’s legacy in English football has yet to be stitched into stone. But his world-class talent and determination through trying circumstances seem to promise a career that will overshadow the grumblings of any coach or analyst in the end.
Let alone the rankled ravings of ex-Liverpool stars.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.