Paul Pogba silences critics with commanding performance for Manchester United 1 year ago

Paul Pogba silences critics with commanding performance for Manchester United

This was the Paul Pogba of France, at Old Trafford

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Paul Pogba - World Cup winner, Serie A winner, Copa Italia winner, European Championship finalist - was supposed to return to the Premier League from his successful summer in Russia and prove, once again, that he is not cut out for Manchester United or, indeed, the "best league in the world".

He was supposed to come back to Old Trafford with a brand new flamboyant haircut, perhaps a World Cup trophy emblazoned into the side of his head, and flatter to deceive, unable to take instruction from Jose Mourinho and fulfill the role asked of him.

Instead, Pogba came back to the Premier League with the confidence of a player who knows how good he is, and is ready to show everyone.

From the start of the match against Leicester City on Friday night, Pogba played with a level of assurance and poise that Manchester United fans have been hoping to see for a long time.

His game at Old Trafford has almost always been composed, but too many of his performances have been blighted by a degree of looseness, typified all too often by Pogba deciding to throw his foot at the ball or attempt a pointless drag back.

Paul Pogba

There was the occasional moment like this against the Foxes - as there are for even the best footballers in the world at times - but this performance was one in which he imposed himself on the occasion immediately.


His early goal, which came from a Daniel Amartey handball after just a minute into the game, was a marker for what was to come: a performance of composure and aggression which meant that - despite Leicester City having large swathes of the game - United were never truly under the cosh.

Much has and will be said about Manchester United's formation and style of play under Jose Mourinho. All too often his teams do what they did on Friday night: take the lead, play with pace, eventually recede, allow the opposition to gain momentum, ad infinitum.

Leicester City were the better side for much of the game at Old Trafford, they threatened David De Gea and could have scored more than the solitary consolation scored by Jamie Vardy late on.

But even when United were struggling, Pogba's head was raised above the parapet. Whereas in previous seasons he has been accused of hiding alongside his teammates when matches became difficult, on this occasion he grabbed his teammates by the ears and dragged them back into the driving seat.

He led from the front here, dictating the play with his movement and passing, kick-starting attacks for his side and generally cajoling his teammates into the right positions.

Paul Pogba

He shook off the constant and now traditional pulls and tugs from opponents, striding up the pitch as if he was outrunning toddlers before releasing the ball to a teammate in a better position.

More than anything else, he was at the centre of almost everything good that United did against Claude Puel's side, in both defence and attack, utterly committed to being involved in all aspects of the game.

This is expected of a player in his position, but for someone who played and won a World Cup final, and failed to play a single pre-season game, it was simply astounding.

Under Jose Mourinho Pogba will never be the player that Manchester United fans truly want him to be. The days of swashbuckling seen most recently at Juventus are over, and Pogba has seen responsibility and the pace of the game become his new objectives since returning to the club in 2016.

That adjustment was understandably difficult for a player with Pogba's technical quality and flair for the magnificent, but his starring role in France's triumphant World Cup campaign was the greatest evidence yet that the 25-year-old is not only comfortable but at home in his new standing for both club and country.

Prior to that win and his performances in Russia, Pogba looked a touch jaded, leading to rumours linking him with a transfer away from the club. But what it appears to have done, aside from place the midfielder in the history books, is rekindled his love for the game, and relight the fire burning within him.

He will always have his critics, for a talented, confident and happy young black footballer this is par for the course.

But they can say what they want, because if today's performance is anything to go by the only sound Pogba will be hearing is his name being chanted by thousands week in, week out.