What Has Gone Wrong for Paul Pogba at Manchester United?
Last week saw numerous headlines about the friction between Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and the team manager, Jose Mourinho. At present it is difficult to see how their differences can be resolved, and given how Manchester United are currently performing it is unlikely that both will survive the season with the club.
The latest chapter of the story has resulted in some close scrutiny of Pogba’s character. He questioned Mourinho’s tactics after a draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers and then tested Mourinho’s patience further with an Instagram post that led to a confrontation between the two at Manchester United’s training ground.
Following Manchester United’s defeat to Derby County in a penalty shootout last week, Pogba posted a video on Instagram that showed him laughing with Luke Shaw and Andreas Pereira in the stands. It has been reported that the post went out later than it should have due to bad reception in the stands, but despite this there is still tension between the player and his manager. The video has since been removed from Instagram, but the damage has already been done.
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Mourinho has said that he is willing to forget about the training-ground incident, but Pogba has already been told that he will no longer be captain when Antonio Valencia is unavailable. As a result, many expect Pogba to try to force a transfer in January, as it is known that Barcelona are eager to sign him.
There are a number of factors contributing to the breakdown of relations between the two. In 2016, when Pogba returned to United from Juventus for a then world record fee of £89.3 million, he also became the club’s best-paid player and received terms of £290,000 per week. The club announced #Pogback on its social media channels and Pogba himself spoke of what a “great feeling” it was to be wearing a red shirt again.
His first season back at the team saw them win the UEFA Europa League and finish sixth in the Premier League under Mourinho. The second season began well and for a while it looked as if Pogba was going to flourish. However, his season was disrupted by injury and suspension and with the arrival of Alexis Sanchez in January Pogba became even more unsettled.
Sanchez earns the same as Pogba at United and the Frenchman’s ego seemed to take a hit. As the weeks went on it was clear that Pogba was becoming even more frustrated by his restricted role in the team and Sanchez’s difficulties settling in did not help.
There have been signs of a power struggle between the two this season. When they faced Leicester City Pogba used his position to put Sanchez in his place when the Chile international wanted to take a penalty. Pogba insisted on taking the shot and subsequently scored.
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It was the agent Mino Raiola who moved Pogba back to United. It was expected that Pogba would become the club’s star player and Raiola hoped that this would raise Pogba’s standings within the game.
However, as soon as Raiola heard that Sanchez was to join the team on the same salary he approached the club and make it clear that his client needed to be the team’s top earner. Recently he has been approaching other top clubs, such as Manchester City, about Pogba.
Raiola is one of the world’s top football agents and he is not afraid to say what he thinks. However, he has made a number of enemies along the way, such as former United boss Sir Alex Ferguson who write in his 2015 book Leading, “There are one or two football agents I simply do not like. And Mino Raiola, Paul Pogba’s agent, is one of them.”
Now it seems as if Raiola’s attitude is rubbing off on Pogba. Every time that Pogba speaks to the media or posts on social media there is the sense that he is trying to convey a bigger message or that using particular words and phrases will help him get what he wants.
There was a good example of this at the start of September. While Pogba was on international duty for France he said to Sky Germany, “My future right now is with Manchester. I have a contract. Currently, I play there, but who knows what will happen in the next couple of months.”
The slightly strange way in which he expressed himself suggests that he was preparing the ground for the coming conflict.
Looking back, it seems that Pogba’s problems with Mourinho started when he was substituted during a defeat to Spurs in January. The pair were seen arguing, reportedly about whether the player had followed instructions.
Pogba has always argued that he needs freedom in order to play at his best, but this is not something that Mourinho is willing to give him, and the arrival of Sanchez led to even more restrictions on Pogba. Following Sanchez’s arrival Pogba rarely completed 90 minutes and his frustration started to grow.
Pogba wanted to choose where he fits best into the side while Mourinho needed Pogba to fulfil a particular role in order to keep the team balanced. This resulted in conflict and probably led to Pogba questioning his future at United.
Mourinho has never guaranteed his players a place on the side, no matter how big a name they are. In February he put Pogba on the bench for a Champions League match against Sevilla, and this is sure to have been another source of conflict.
However, despite the regular reports of conflicts between player and manager, it is equally often reported that Pogba’s teammates enjoy playing with him. He is a popular figure and away from the training ground he is known as a friendly and enjoyable person to be around.
He is often teased for spending too much time worrying about how his hair looks rather than focusing on his performances. For a while it even seemed that there may be some truth in the jokes, but his stylist Ahmed Alsanawi of A-Star Barbers, insists that this is not the case.
At the end of last season he said, “Football is everything to Pogba. I know that. Because he has a bad game, that means he can’t look good? I don’t think so. I have spoken to a lot of players about this issue, and they all told me the same thing: Having a good haircut gives you confidence.”
Confidence is clearly central to Pogba and if he is not feeling good it follows that he will not be playing at his best.
At present goalkeeper David De Gea is renegotiating his contract and if he manages to agree terms similar to those of Pogba and Sanchez the situation could become even more complicated. If Pogba is not the best paid, the star player, or in the exact role that he wants, then it seems unlikely that he will remain with the club.
It has been reported that Pogba asked to leave United before the start of the season and everything suggests that he still wants to go. However, it won’t be simple for him to leave in January.
Barcelona is known to be interested in Pogba, but it is not certain that they could make an offer that would satisfy United, especially as Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice-chairman, is eager to ensure that Pogba’s signing is not looked upon as a flop.
There is also a chance that he could move to Juventus, but it would probably require Miralem Pjanic or Paulo Dybala to move the other way and reports in Italy say that this is not an option.
Nonetheless, Pogba has Raiola working for him so anything is possible. On the other hand, a move seems unlikely so Pogba and Mourinho will have to find a way of working together and not wrecking this season.
There is no doubt surrounding Pogba’s talent. However, some think that he is immature, and clearly this leads to personal conflicts. Mourinho thought that Pogba could become the best all-around midfielder in the world, but the United boss wasn’t prepared for the other side of his nature.
There is a chance that Mourinho could leave United regardless of the Pogba situation and it is possible that a new manager, such as Zinedine Zidane or Mauricio Pochettino could work very well with Pogba.
Monday motivation ?? bonne semaine à tous pic.twitter.com/3vXAYeTztz
— Paul Pogba (@paulpogba) 17 September 2018
It is thought that Raiola will meet with the club officials in the near future. However, at present there are no plans for any changes at the team and it seems that further deterioration of the relationship between player and manager is inevitable.