“Never in a million years would I pay £100million for him… Never…”
I will hold my hands up and admit that the above statement was my stance on a certain Paul Pogba. Having watched my beloved Manchester United make Pogba the most expensive player of all-time, I could not help but be sceptical towards the effect the French midfielder would have at Old Trafford.
How could United justify paying such a fee for a player they let go for virtually nothing just a few years ago? What had changed? Why would they not spend it on buying two or three world-class players?
My own views on Monsieur Pogba had arisen from a European Championships where I felt he was somewhat underwhelming. So much was expected of him – the golden boy of the host nation.
Pogba meandered through games as France reached the final, without ever really inspiring the imagination. Yes – he scored a couple of goals. Yes – he had some beautiful touches. But having sat through 120 minutes of what could only be called a dour final, not once did Pogba bring any impetus to France.
This impetus, this impact, is what you expect from a player being tipped to become the most expensive player of all-time. He, to me, was not a ‘match-winner’. Instead, France had Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet. Portugal had Cristiano Ronaldo. Wales had Gareth Bale.
Had he been signing for Real Madrid or Barcelona, his performances would have caused me no concern. But it was Manchester United who were preparing this monstrous bid, and such was my disillusion as to why.
Surely this player should be a match-winner in every game, like Ronaldo, Messi or Bale? Albeit he plays in a different position, but surely such a fee commands an element of being able to directly affect every single game you play. For me, Pogba did not present that, hence my thoughts on the transfer revolving around “Why?”
On Friday night, I was shown exactly why. Making his first appearance since his return to Old Trafford, Pogba displayed glimpses of what exactly had motivated the United hierarchy to sign him. Majestic on the ball, powerful when running with it, combative in defence and with a touch of class throughout, Pogba inspired an under-construction United to their second win of the season.
All after Mourinho suggested he would not be fit to play the full game. Pogba’s response:
“I felt good. I feel good.”
United fans were feeling good afterwards too.
The fixture itself was dominated with plotlines: José Mourinho’s first home league game in charge; Home debuts for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly and Pogba; The men tipped for summer moves – Juan Mata and Daley Blind – being picked in the starting line-up.
A brace of goals for the enigmatic Zlatan, a solid defensive showing from Bailly and the regal Pogba ensured Mourinho began his home campaign with three points. What’s more is that the win will have undoubtedly made teams occupying United’s kingpin position for the last three years, sit up and take notice of their resurgence to becoming the top team in England again.
And with an in-form Pogba spearheading this, who am I to question his value?