What does Paul Pogba have to do? Challenge for the title, obviously…
It says something about the attitude of British tabloid newspapers that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer speaks about World Cup winner Paul Pogba and his potential ‘leadership’ and The Sun’s back page leads on ‘RED, FIGHT AND BLEUS’ and Solskjaer’s wish to see the ‘French Bull-Pog’. Because of course ‘leadership’ is all about fighting and biting, right? We know at least one Scotsman who would agree.
Pog days are over
Of course this gives Neil Custis the excuse – as if he ever needed one – to go in two-footed on Paul Pogba. We’re just surprised he is still at Manchester United; it was the ‘beginning of the end’ for him at the club in September 2018.
‘Ahead of tonight’s trip to Tottenham, excitement is growing at the thought of him sharing the same pitch as Bruno Fernandes, who has made a bigger impact in nine games at United than Pogba in four years.’
Now Fernandes has been good – very good – but is important to remember that four of his nine games have been against Club Brugge, LASK and Derby County. Come back to us when he…
* Ends a season with more Premier League goals and assists than any of his teammates and is named in the PFA Team of the Year.
* Ends a season with more Premier League assists than any of his teammates despite playing only two-thirds of the games.
* Ends a season as Europa League Player of the Year after winning two trophies.
Those are the details of Pogba’s three complete seasons at Manchester United. Now he could certainly have done more, but to suggest that Fernandes has ‘made a bigger impact in nine games’ is total hogwash.
And Custis is not done there – it seems he will not be changing his mind on Pogba on the strength of their next nine games.
‘A few good games behind closed doors will not cut it, either.
‘He needs to be the engine behind a title push next season to really prove himself, because Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is building a team capable of that.’
Okay, so Manchester United have not had a ‘title push’ in seven years and they are now 37 points behind Liverpool and yet you are expecting Pogba to ‘be the engine behind a title push next season to really prove himself’.
And if he fails – and he will – will it be his failure and nobody else’s? We suspect we know the answer already.
And there’s more…
And so to the Daily Mail and Martin Samuel and more re-writing of history as he prepares for what he calls the ‘fourth coming’ of Paul Pogba.
‘He was going to be the modern Patrick Vieira. Wayne Rooney spoke of the physical battle Pogba presented, even in training. He said tackling Pogba hurt, even when he didn’t intend it to.
‘Pogba could not quite deliver on those mighty expectations, so there was the second coming.’
Well, it’s not really Pogba’s fault that people expected him to be the new Vieira just because he is tall and black, but what we do know is that he created more chances for his Manchester United teammates than any other player by some distance that season. And we know he won two trophies and was named Europa League Player of the Year by UEFA.
‘That was 2017, his next season, when it was thought he would build on strong performances in Europe by getting to grips with the demands of the Premier League slog.
‘It was pointed out Pogba hadn’t played at the top level in England before. It would have been as big a shock to him as to any foreign player. This year would be different. It wasn’t.
‘At times, he couldn’t get in ahead of Scott McTominay.’
At times? It happened twice that season – against Huddersfield (when Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford were also on the bench) and against Watford on the final day of the season. He started every other game for which he was available. And no player outside of the excellent Manchester City created more Premier League goals as Pogba (10) even though he played only two-thirds of the fixtures.
‘Then there was the third coming, in 2018, when Pogba was made captain. He lost that role, fell out with the doomed Mourinho and, despite a brief resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, ended the campaign in conflict with fans as United lost at home to Cardiff.’
He also scored 13 Premier League goals, created nine more and was named in the PFA Team of the Season but yes, let’s concentrate on him sarcastically applauding Manchester United fans who shouted abuse at him on the final day.
‘And so to this, the fourth occasion Pogba has been depicted as United’s saviour, except this time even his manager does not appear wholly convinced.
‘The trailers had a now-fit Pogba and Bruno Fernandes paired in a dream midfield, but by Thursday it seemed likelier Solskjaer would stick with his team pre-lockdown.
‘Pogba would be a substitute with the official explanation that Solskjaer, ever the decent fellow, intended showing loyalty to a group that had gone 11 games unbeaten before the season was put in mothballs.
‘If this sounds rather convenient, it is. A manager wouldn’t start a new season faithful to those who had done well last May and this is, at heart, a new campaign under the auspices of old. There is no question of Mourinho not using Harry Kane, who is also back fit.’
What a ridiculous comparison. Manchester United went into the hiatus on an 11-match unbeaten run while Spurs had not won in six. You are comparing apples not just with pears but with bloody gravy.
This is an utterly bizarre sentence from The Sun’s website:
‘Greater Manchester Police took the special edition motor and Pogba, 27, was loaded into the back of the patrol car on the A4538 near Hale, Cheshire.’
Who ‘loads’ an actual person into the back of a car?
Risk: A verse
When you see a headline of ‘Arsenal would risk breaking Premier League integrity agreement over William Saliba’, what do you surmise? Certainly that Arsenal are willing to take a risk; the word ‘would’ suggests that it is something they would contemplate.
Which is exactly why the Mirror website used that particular headline on a story that basically explains why they will not even consider recalling Saliba to play in July.
Next week: ‘Mikel Arteta would risk prison sentence over killing David Luiz.’
Juxtaposition of the day
Martin Samuel defends Philippe Coutinho in the Daily Mail, suggesting that he would make an excellent signing for Leicester and ending with the words ‘imagine Coutinho picking out passes to Jamie Vardy’.
Literally two inches to the right, he urges Arsenal not to give Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a new contract, asking: ‘How many strikers are still in peak form at, say, 34?’
Jamie Vardy is seven months off 34.
Football365 Shithouse headline of the day
‘Is Timo Werner STILL set to join Liverpool?’
We cannot pretend we did not know what we were doing with Thursday’s Mediawatch headline.
Other people did not know what we were doing with Thursday’s Mediawatch headline:
— B2 (@apotheosis_b2) June 18, 2020
Recommended reading of the day
Ben Fisher on the return of the Championship
Mark Critchley on the Manchester United midfield
Adam Bate talks to Daniel Farke
Recommended watching of the day