Manchester United’s record signing Paul Pogba has not been having the best of times lately. The France international was widely criticised for his tactically naive display in his sides recent 2-0 loss to Spurs, and was subsequently dropped for the Old Trafford club’s next Premier League fixture against Huddersfield.
The 24-year-old was reinstated to Jose Mourinho’s starting XI for United’s disappointing 1-0 loss to Newcastle yesterday. However, the former Juventus man seemed to be carrying an injury right from the start of the game, and again drew widespread condemnation for his decision not to challenge the Geordies Florian Lejeune in the build up to the home sides winner.
One pundit who has been one of Pogba’s most outspoken critics is former Liverpool midfielder Graeme Souness, and the 64-year-old who was regarded as one of the finest central midfielders of his generation, recently told the Sunday Times:
‘He still doesn’t understand what is required to play that position properly,’
‘Pogba simply cannot be one of two in central midfield. You cannot rely on him. Against the lesser teams you’ll get away with it, but against the better teams you’re not going to.
‘For Mourinho and United, it’s about finding the right position for him, but he isn’t a playmaker. If you’re looking for a central midfielder who recognises danger, fills spaces and doesn’t drift out of position, he’s not going to do that for you.
‘When he’s asked to do a job centrally, he’s forever straying towards the touchline trying to get on the ball. A central midfielder should never be in areas wider than the penalty box, unless they are out there to confront danger defensively. When your side are in possession you should always be thinking: “If it breaks down, I’m out of the game.”
‘Pogba empties that central area far too readily. He will do something clever in the final third, but will be absent when his back four are under the cosh. He plays like a schoolboy running after the ball in the playground.
‘There’s lots I like about Pogba. He’s powerful and athletic with good technique, but I’ve not seen a different, improved Pogba since he walked back into Old Trafford in August 2016.’
Pogba was substituted not long after his mistake lead to Newcastle’s winning goal today, and he looked inconsolable on United’s bench. Although some people will point to the fact Souness may be biased due to his Liverpool connections, he does certainly have a point in regards to Pogba’s lack of tactical awareness.
The talented midfielder ranks high in terms of assists and key passes in the Premier League this season, but when playing in a midfield two against top class opposition he often struggles with his defensive duties.
Some suggest Mourinho would be better off utilising his club’s record signing on the left of a three man midfield, which is the same position he thrived in during his time at Juventus.