The biggest game in English football, the most expensive player in the history of football, the stage was set for Paul Pogba to shine, however the £89million midfielder had an absolute shocker against Liverpool on Sunday, but it might not be a bad thing.
Pogba came back to England after four years with Juventus but weighted down with the heaviest price tag of all time firmly on his shoulders. His first few weeks back in the Premier League were disappointing, but absolutely understandable considering his extended summer holiday and being unfamiliar to the pace of English football. He was also not helped by manager Jose Mourinho, who was still struggling to work out his best side and formation. He played Pogba in three different positions, as a number 6, a number 8 and a number 10. He also played with a number of different midfield partners, but frequently with the much maligned Marouane Fellaini as a midfield partnership.
However, the return of Michael Carrick as a regular starter as well as a switch to a 4-3-3 stystem, with Pogba on the left hand side of the midfield 3, brought an up turn in the form of the Frenchman as well as the results of Manchester United.
Before the Liverpool game, Manchester United were on a nine game winning streak, and despite being in sixth position, were still not being written off for a title challenge.
Then, their bitter rivals turned up at Old Trafford with a less than full strength squad. No Clyne, no Matip and a half fit Coutinho on the bench, and despite starting the weekend in second place in the table, Liverpool went into the game as underdogs.
However, what happened in the next 90 minutes was unexpected. Pogba had an absolute stinker, unable to control the play, unable to threaten the goal, and literally handed Liverpool the lead after inexplicably handling the ball in the area from a floated corner kick.
24 hours before this dismal display, Pogba’s name was trending on Twitter. No, not because of anticipation of his performance in the upcoming game, but because of his brand. Black and gold boots, Black and gold clothes, a new hair cut with his brand logo in, and his own Twitter emoji. #Pogba
Pogba is the face of Manchester United, as well as the face adidas, and he is loving every minute in the limelight and after his recent good performances, nobody can blame him. The timing is also not surprising. Maximum exposure before one of the biggest games of the season.
Earlier this month, the 23-year old narrowly missed out on making the FIFA Team of the Year, and probably rightly so. Pogba needs to remember he is a footballer, and all of the brand promotion comes as a result of his qualities. However, first and foremost, he has to get it right on the field.
Pogba seems to have a natural confidence in his abilities, he has a certain swagger on the pitch, an arrogance that no matter who he is against, he can take them all on. All players are allowed to have a bad game, and Pogba was perhaps unlucky that his bad game came in one of the most watched matches in world football. However his shocker against Liverpool could be a good thing.
With Manchester United afforded a week off between games for the first time in quite a while, Mourinho needs to bring Pogba’s feet firmly back to Earth and get his head back in the game and reminded that the football must come first.
Pogba could do worse than taking a good look at another former Manchester United star, a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. Just like Pogba, Ronaldo has an arrogance, Ronaldo has a self belief, Ronaldo knows he is good, and Ronaldo is a brand. His CR7 brand of hotels, underwear, football boots and much more are widely promoted by the superstar throughout the week. However, Pogba needs to look at the way that despite this, Ronaldo performs on the pitch and achieves greatness year after year.
If he remembers to keep his focus on the game, and not lose concentration during it, Pogba could make his £89million transfer fee look like a bargain, and this one poor game could be just the reality check he needs to take that next ruthless step to greatness.
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