One could argue that it’s hard to play the type of football that Manchester United have been made famous for without having a superstar or two in your lineup… enter Paul Pogba.
Manchester United has always been synonymous with dazzling, attacking football, but in recent years the Reds have played anything but. Failed tenures from former managers’ David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal have contributed to United’s recent lackluster and unentertaining football, with the fans wanting and expecting more. But now there’s a hint of anticipation in the air as United secured a few big name signings this summer, not least a certain Mr. Paul Pogba who can help make Manchester United great again.
You may well say that Wayne Rooney can still lead United to success, but his highly publicized recent downfall says otherwise.
The last time United fans could really say they had a player of his caliber in their team; a player who would leave you on the edge of your seat; a player who would run at defenses and beat his man, was between 2003 and 2009 when Cristiano Ronaldo was tearing apart Premier League defenses. Ever since his departure to Real Madrid, a gaping hole was left in the Manchester United team; one that proved very difficult to fill.
Sure, a couple of years ago Van Gaal brought in big names Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria, two signings which brought huge expectation to United fans, but things didn’t pan out quite as expected. Falcao never reached his peak form after a serious knee injury prior to joining United, while Di Maria failed to settle in to the team despite a bright start. Both players left the following season.
Things are different this time around for Manchester United though. One look at the United team sheet and fans pulses will be racing with the likes of Jose Mourinho manning the helm, Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front, and Paul Pogba controlling the midfield.
What Makes Pogba So Great?
Paul Pogba was never known for being a prolific goal scorer, and this is backed up in the table below displaying his goal scoring record at his former club Juventus, but he is however a “powerful, skillful, and creative” player who has “an eye for goal and a penchant for the spectacular”, as once described by his current club Manchester United.
|Season||Serie A (Apps + Goals)||National Cup (Apps + Goals)||Champions League (Apps + Goals)||Total (Apps + Goals)|
|2012-2013||27 - 5||2 - 0||8 - 0||37 - 5|
|2013-2014||36 - 7||0 - 0||14 - 1||40 - 8|
|2014-2015||26 - 8||4 - 1||10 - 1||40 - 10|
|2015-2016||35 - 8||5 - 1||8 -1||48 - 10|
Primarily a central midfielder, he is capable of filling both a holding role or even an attacking one, but many feel he is better suited as a box-to-box player. Pogba has been praised for his technique and flair, a characteristic not often found in tall and physically imposing players such as himself. But perhaps what sets him apart are his dribbling skills. He ranked second in Serie A last season for dribbles completed, beating an opponent on 102 occasions.
Thanks to his height (1.91 m), he also excels in the air, as evidenced by his powerful headed goal against Leicester City. Pogba also possesses great vision and passing range, two characteristics every top play-maker should have. He was able to hone and fine tune these attributes during his final season with Juventus where he was commonly deployed in a more forward, play-maker role. It is this position that allowed him to rake in 12 assists during last season’s Serie A campaign.
How Can He Help United?
For all that’s been said so far about Pogba, we must not forget that football is a team sport. Pogba excelled at Juventus because he had high caliber players around him while playing in a formation that favors him, namely a 4-3-3. Furthermore, if Mourinho wants to get the best out of his investment, he will need to avoid the mistake Deschamps made at the Euros by deploying him in a deeper role where he is less effective. He is at his best when he is creating and scoring goals as evidenced in United’s 4-1 trashing of Fenerbahce last night.
If given the right environment and playing conditions, Pogba will fill a role United have been sorely lacking and hopefully flourish into the player we all want and expect him to be; one of the best box-to-box playmakers in the world.