Paul Pogba was not great for Manchester United against Tottenham on Wednesday. Paul Pogba would be the first to admit this. In truth, no Manchester United player performed well, considering they comfortably lost 2-0. But Tony Cascarino has only one target in The Times.
Cascarino lays into the midfielder, saying he ‘didn’t seem bothered about chasing back to defend’ (he made two tackles), and yet ‘was trying to be the all-action hero’. Is it actually possible to do both?
The pundit also ‘rarely sees’ Pogba ‘impose himself on big games’. This is the same Pogba who assisted two of United’s goals in a 3-1 win over Arsenal in December. Although he did impose himself a little too much in getting sent off – probably while not bothering to chase back and defend.
But Cascarino saves his most scathing views for a little later on.
‘He sometimes gives the impression that he has been there and done that, playing the role of the superstar but not always backing it up. He is only 24 but is one of the most expensive players in history, has won trophies in Italy and England and has 49 appearances for France. Maybe he is caught up in his own hype?’
Or maybe he had one bad game in an otherwise excellent season.
‘Maybe he needs a bit of a dressing down?’
For what? Being dominated in midfield by Mousa Demble? He’s hardly the only player guilty of that.
‘With that in mind, I wonder if that arrival of Alexis Sanchez has affected his mindset, No longer the best-paid player at the club, perhaps Pogba was trying to show everyone that he is the star and played the game how he wanted.’
Or, again, maybe he had one bad game in an otherwise excellent season.
There are legitimate points to be made about where Pogba fits in this United side going forward, but references to him considering himself a ‘superstar’ or needing ‘a dressing down’ are strange. There were worse United players on show at Wembley, and considerably worse throughout the season.
In fairness to Cascarino, he makes no mention of Pogba’s life outside of football. Thank f***. That is the kind of thing we leave to Neil Ashton.
‘Winning was everything for Roy Keane – like Bryan Robson and Paul Ince before him – and they did not care much for the noise around them,’ he writes in his Sun column. Is that not because the ‘noise around’ Keane, Robson and Ince did not involve talking about his haircuts or Twitter presence?
‘With Pogba, it is starting to feel like he is accessorising.’
Again, he had one bad game. Two players have more assists in the Premier League this season. He’s doing alright.
‘He has the social media profile, the massive house with basement discotheque in Cheshire, the souped-up exhaust on his Audi…the Manchester United shirt hanging up on the peg.’
Paul Pogba is rubbish because he has a disco in his basement and also has a car and a Twitter account. Pass it on.
‘His squad number – six- is a reflection of his career at Old Trafford.’
Mediawatch has read that line a few times now and it still does not compute. Is Ashton saying Pogba’s United career thus far has been average, a 6 out of ten?
If so, there is no better time to remind you that this was the first time Pogba had featured in a Premier League defeat for United since October 2016, and he has won two trophies in one-and-a-half years.
But then this is a player who is ‘struggling to live up to the hype,’ right?
Excuse the pundit
Sky Sports have asked four of their finest(?) pundits to predict the Premier League’s top four this season. The thing is, they have done this three times now in the last three months.
Back in November, Charlie Nicholas said Liverpool and Chelsea would miss out, and that Arsenal would finish third. By February, Arsenal ‘are nailed on to miss out’ along with Chelsea.
Back in November, Paul Merson predicted a top four of Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal. By February, he is ‘worried about’ Chelsea, who he previously had in second place, while Arsenal are also predicted to finish outside of the top four.
Back in November, Phil Thompson also had Chelsea finishing second. By January they were tipped to finish fourth ‘as they have a bit more consistency’. Two weeks later, they ‘are looking particularly vulnerable’.
Clue: Stop asking pundits how the top four will finish every few weeks. It will probably just keep on changing.
This is the Hend
Sticking with Thompson, Sky Sports have handed him the unenviable (and unoriginal) task of choosing a Liverpool and Tottenham combined XI. How fun.
To his credit, he picks Hugo Lloris in goal. The temptation to choose Loris Karius must have been overwhelming. In front of him is Kieran Trippier, Jan Vertonghen, Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson. Poor Toby Alderweireld.
But the issue comes in central midfield. A matter of days after Dembele dominated Manchester United at Wembley, does he get the nod in the one holding midfield role in front of four defenders and behind five attackers? Maybe Victor Wanyama is included, or perhaps even Georginio Wijnaldum? No? Emre Can then.
No. Jordan Henderson is the one midfielder Thompson chooses, having ‘made a huge impact’ on his return. Forgive Mediawatch for being slightly more impressed with Demebele against United.
Into the Woods
Writes David Woods in his column for the Daily Star.
‘As previous title winners Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho also found, there is a thing called ‘second season syndrome’ at Stamford Bridge and Conte is suffering from it badly.’
Jose Mourinho won the Premier League title in both of his second seasons at Chelsea.
Headline of the day
‘Man Utd ace Paul Pogba makes statement after Jose Mourinho bust-up during Tottenham defeat’ – Daily Express.
He posted on Instagram saying he was ‘disappointed’ with the result. He probably didn’t have to pass that with his legal team.
Recommended reading of the day
Sid Lowe on Aymeric Laporte.
Rory Smith on Martin Odegaard.
Planet Sport recommends: Find out which London team Andy Murray is a fan of – and which top tennis star supports Liverpool (Tennis365)