When Manchester United re-signed Paul Pogba in August 2016, many believed that the Red Devils had recruited one of the world’s best midfielders. Over the last four years, however, the Frenchman has failed to hit the heights that many predicted. Although he’s played a role in the 20-time champions of England winning the Europa League and League Cup since his return, the Manchester-based club has collectively been below par since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. While, of course, those shortcomings can’t be blamed solely on Pogba, it wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that he has failed to reach his world-class potential. So, let’s take a look at where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer goes now with the 27-year-old.
Underperforming or Harshly Judged?
Following his transfer to United from Juventus, Pogba became the Red Devils’ record signing at £89.3 million, as per Manchester Evening News. From a goalscoring perspective, the Frenchman has frequently contributed, finding the net on 25 occasions in 114 league appearances for the club. In Pogba’s defence, both his 2017-18 and 2018-19 campaigns were fruitful. In his second full season following his return, Transfermarkt state that he scored six goals and assisted a further ten. In the following year, the Frenchman scored 13 and set up nine.
Because of his unique ability to play the box-to-box role, Pogba isn’t easily comparable to many other players in world football. For example, although his contributions from a passing and chance-creation standpoint are significantly lower than Kevin de Bruyne, his xG90 (expected goals per 90 minutes) from 2016 to 2019 sits at 0.32, compared to the Belgian’s 0.20, as per Understat. However, over the last two campaigns, Pogba’s output is largely matched and bettered across various in-game elements by Bayern Munich’s Leon Goretzka, who arrived at the Allianz Arena for free in 2018.
The Arrival of Donny van de Beek
Another factor that may have an impact on Pogba’s long-term future at Old Trafford concerns the summer signing of Donny van de Beek from Ajax. The Red Devils signed the 23-year-old midfielder for an initial £34.7 million to add depth to their squad. However, the Dutchman’s chances have, at the time of writing, been limited because of his positional similarities to Pogba. In turn, this has led to many questioning where this addition leaves Pogba.
In an article by the Express, former Manchester United midfielder, Paul Ince, believes that Van de Beek’s arrival could signal the end of Pogba’s United career at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season. In reality, it’s clear to see why the 53-year-old holds that view. The likeness between the two makes it somewhat problematic to shoehorn them both into the same line-up, especially when Bruno Fernandes is a guaranteed starter. However, in the short-term, the depth will enable United to compete on all fronts, and they are currently 5/2 to secure a top-four spot in the football betting come the end of the campaign, as of November 4th.
A Resolution is Needed
To label Paul Pogba as an expensive failure would be both disrespectful and incorrect. In 2017-18 and 2018-19, the Frenchman was one of United’s most integral players and led by example. Although he hasn’t yet become the world-beating midfielder that many predicted, he’s perhaps a victim of his own past success at Juventus.