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Euro 2020

23rd Jun 2021

Paul Pogba is bossing another major tournament and showing United what they need to do

Patrick McCarry

Two sublime passes to get his team goals, and the whole game on a string.

If you were one of those (albeit rare) football fans that only tuned in for major international tournaments, you would be forgiven for thinking Paul Pogba was a golden god.

For long stretches of Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, and in his opening three Euro 2020 appearances, Pogba has been serene. He has controlled the tempo and broken up attacks, only to turn the game on a dime with a killer pass.

Against Portugal, in a Group F decider, he was as good as most have seen him in years. Partnered with N’Golo Kante in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Pogba was so completely at ease with himself.

His dink for Kylian Mbappe, before France were awarded a penalty, and his slide-rule pass for Karim Benzema’s second strike were pure class. Midway through the second half, he forced a world-class save as Rui Patricio tipped the ball onto his crossbar.

It would be easy to say that so many Manchester United fans would be watching him at Euro 2020 and asking where was THIS Paul Pogba. Some United supporters will think that, of course, but most that followed their 2020/21 campaign will have recognised much of what they saw at the Puskas Arena tonight.

The Frenchman had arguably his best season for United since returning to the club. They were second in the table and just three points off Manchester City when he injured his thigh muscle. By the time he returned, City’s lead was into double figures and the race was run.

The major gripe United fans would justifiably have is something that French fans accused Pogba of when France lost the 2016 final to Portugal. In a huge game, with a trophy on the line, he was a passenger. He was okay. He was not terrible. He just did not make his mark on the game.

The major difference for Pogba, with France, is that he is with France.

He is a holding midfielder with N’Golo Kante, but they have such a good working relationship that either could press forward and join in attacks. Mostly, it was Pogba. Kante was happy to sit and shield.

Compare Kante, though, to Fred or Nemanja Matic. They may have the same job description but they are several rungs down the ladder.

Up front, Pogba has Bezema, Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann to play with. In defence, he has Varane, Kimpempe and Hernandez – lads that all know each others’ games inside out.

United look set to tie up the Jadon Sancho deal in the coming weeks. Borussia Dortmund still want more from the club, but they are a lot happier with the £72m bid that will be made.

Pogba will have Bruno Fernandes in the United midfield next season, but they need that Kante figure in there. Scott McTominay is a player that merits many, many starts for United in years to come, but the club need more quality in midfield.

The performances of the likes of McTominay and Daniel James at Euro 2020 will have encouraged United fans but seeing Pogba in his pomp has shown them what they always knew.

A huge transfer window awaits, and United cannot afford to be shy.