What is Jose Mourinho trying to do by defending Pogba so ferociously?
Alex: Relieve the perceived pressure on Pog. The press and fans are obviously paying very close attention to every Pogba performance such that he is questioned every time he isn’t brilliant. This is the state of the modern game, unfortunately, but Mourinho is just trying to deflect and lessen the player’s burden.
Mohaned: Mourinho deflects. That’s what he does. He realizes that Pogba is under fire in the media (and rightly so) so he brings it up and tells everyone to back off. Had Pogba been performing well and the media criticism was unjust, this would have never happened. Some of the things Mourinho specifically said were absolute drivel. That Pogba deserves respect for being so young and working hard and having nothing given to him and blah blah. Mate, this isn’t the Oscars. I need that pass, that shot, that tackle to come off. Sounding like Arsene, there, Jose. That’s dangerous.
Rishay: Agreeing with Alex partially here, I think Mourinho is indeed defending Pogba but also trying to relieve some of the burden on his shoulders. Week-to-week Pogba has been an incredible force and has improved as the season has gone on and it is quite unfair of fans to start bombarding him over the last couple of matches. I believe Pogba has been worn down and needs to be rested – he has started almost every game and now the games are happening every 3-4 days. Mourinho in my opinion has done what Sir Alex would’ve done.
What were your expectations of Paul Pogba coming into the season?
Rishay: I expected Pogba to bring some solidity and character to the United midfield which were lacking over the past few seasons. If we remember the last year or two under Sir Alex, United were top heavy and the goals were flying in despite having a massive hole in the midfield. Pogba’s signing and return to the team has indicated a willingness to dictate play and control the ball. He has shown a lot of strength and great passing range. In my opinion, he has shown his class but has received criticism because fans are expecting him to be a one man show. It is a shame that Kante at Chelsea seems to be the best central midfielder around at the moment, but for every Ronaldo, there is always a Messi, no?
Mohaned: Dominate United’s midfield. Absolutely boss games. Take them to the next level. Have a similar if not higher impact than Zlatan is having right now. I’ll be clear, Pogba was never a stats man; goals and assists. I don’t expect that from him. It’s a nice bonus. I’m looking for dominating central midfield play. The type of stuff Yaya Toure used to do for City in his prime.
Alex: I’ll say for a start that his price tag had no bearing on my expectations. The market is mental, and a good part of the reason United were willing to pay that much is the marketing opportunities, and his age. And because they can.
He was superb with Juventus but with quality, experienced players all around him and in a system designed to get the best out of him. We saw in the Euros with France that when the circumstances around him were different, he found it more difficult, so I did not expect miracles.
Should he be doing better or is it the system that limits him?
Alex: Like Mohaned, I’d like to see him impose his physicality on the game a little more, by which I mean be stronger in the tackle and make more driving runs that he is so good at, and that take opposition players out of the game. I wonder whether he’s under instruction to temper that, though, as we’ve seen less and less of it as the season has progressed, and more of the deep-lying playmaker style. Carrick and Herrera are good players and decent partners, but it’s not surprising that he looked better with Pirlo, Vidal or Marchisio. Ultimately it’s his first season back in the league, in a team under transition and he’s doing fine. There’s more to come.
Rishay: I think Pogba has shown his class but there are still some areas that need to be improved in this United squad. Question marks over some defenders, other midfielders, and over-reliance on an aging Zlatan are all detriments to their efforts. Overall United have been quite dominant in games but seem to run into annoyances in the form of posts, crossbars, amazing goalkeeping performances, poor finishing skills and general wastefulness in front of goal. It’s hard to blame the system as I think United are at the beginning of a cycle and this is part of the growing pain. I truly believe there will be a point either this season or next where United will be scoring at will. Pogba is slightly burned out at the moment, but once he gets some momentum back, United will be in full swing.
Mohaned: He should be doing better but United are a team in transition. New manager and new players, so it’s understandable that it doesn’t help Pogba. Had he been in the Chelsea side in place of Matic, for example, he would be dominating games because of the stability around him. For a player of his supposed caliber, he should be able to play anywhere. Deep lying, #10, box to box, etc. I think it will come with time, and as United improve (and spend another 200 mil in the summer).
Will he succeed or fail at Man United?
Mohaned: He will succeed in his career for sure. At United or not is a different story. The outcome here is really down to United more than Pogba. He can go to Barcelona or Madrid and do just fine but United need to step up to their standards of old if Pogba is to be perceived as successful. Your individual brilliant performances can only get you so far if your team isn’t winning and challenging on all major fronts.
Alex: Succeed, as long as his managers work out how best to utilize his talents.
Rishay: There is no doubt that he will succeed. Manchester United are at the beginning of a cycle and reinforcements will surely be coming in the summer. Squad depth will aid the ability to rotate and not overly rely on a few individual players. Pogba himself has set some lofty expectations and just needs to clear his head at the moment. He will be fine.
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