Paul Pogba will not stop ruffling feathers and must be moved on, writes Sport360's Brendon Netto.
If Manchester United fans were torn between backing Paul Pogba or Jose Mourinho in the duo’s well-publicised feud, the former has now made that choice a very simple one for them.
The victory away to Burnley was a crucial one for the club and allowed the players to jet off on international duty in good spirits rather than having the disappointing start to the season fester over the break. United supporters were revelling in a fine team performance only for Pogba to ruin it all by casting a shadow of doubt over his future.
“My future is currently in Manchester,” he told Sky Germany. “I still have a contract. I’m playing there at the moment, but who knows what will happen in the next few months?”
This comes after a week of several comments from the Barcelona camp heaping praise on Pogba and inviting a potential move to the Camp Nou.
Both Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez have voiced their appreciation of the Frenchman, going as far as to say he would be welcomed at Barcelona. Club vice-president Jordi Mestre followed suit.
If Pogba were to move to Barcelona, it wouldn’t be by means of a simple transaction. The 25-year-old is a major commercial asset with three years left on his contract at United and an agreement would be complex. The noises coming from the Barca camp and the player, in the same week, is no coincidence though. A transfer is being carefully orchestrated and it has the fingerprints of puppeteer Mino Raiola all over it.
As Pogba’s agent, Raiola stands to benefit from another big-money for his client. But whether or not the player is being influenced by the Italian is besides the point. Pogba is old enough to make his own decisions and clearly isn’t happy at United. Holding on to a player who doesn’t want to be there and is as outspoken as he is, can be potentially toxic for the rest of the squad.
Mourinho has his own two-year contract to serve out, meaning what the club need more than anything else at the moment, is for the players to fight for the manager. Pogba evidently isn’t up to the task.
“We have a pure coach-player relationship. That’s how it is,” Pogba said.
“One thing I can assure you: I will always give 100 per cent, regardless for which coach. I always give everything for United – I cannot say more.”
Admittedly, Mourinho may not have handled his relationship with Pogba as well as he could have. When the Portuguese is confronted by a big ego, it can go two ways. Either they’re on the same wavelength and enjoy a relationship based on mutual respect or their affiliation is riddled by a feeling of contempt.
Even so, Mourinho has attempted to extend an olive branch of late. His comments about Pogba have been far more favourable since the start of the season and he even handed him the captain’s armband in Antonio Valencia’s absence, imploring the midfielder to lead United like he did France over the summer.
It didn’t have the desired effect though. Pogba has managed to muster fleeting displays of his quality but has largely been disappointing – neatly summarising his time at the club since his return. He even questioned his own attitude whilst sporting the armband in a 3-2 defeat away to Brighton.
It’s become obvious that Pogba has no desire to make amends, rendering the relationship between player and coach untenable. United must look forward, thereby casting the troublesome Frenchman aside.
Pogba has all the talent in the world but that means nothing if he’s determined to do all his talking off the pitch. In his two seasons since transferring from Juventus for a then world record fee, he’s only put together a handful of genuinely impressive performances – at best.
The haircuts, the cryptic social media posts and not-so-subtle jibes at the manager – none of it would’ve been tolerated by Sir Alex Ferguson. Pogba would’ve been shoved out of Old Trafford before he could say ‘dab’. The Scot didn’t pander to him in 2012, allowing him to join Juventus on a free transfer instead, and United mustn’t pander to him now. Far greater and accomplished players have been ushered towards the exit at United in the past.
Given the current market, he’s likely to command a substantial fee with the Red Devils standing to make a significant profit and he’s hardly proved to be irreplaceable. Despite his commercial value, even money man Ed Woodward may now believe enough is enough.
United need strong characters willing to pull together and fight at the moment, not a prima donna simply going through the motions and disrespecting the club at every turn.