Pogba can save Man Utd career by forming partnership with Bruno Fernandes
This time last year, what was supposed to be Paul Pogba’s romantic second spell at Manchester United looked to be over and ending in heartbreak.
Real Madrid beckoned, but despite Pogba offering up few moments to cherish during his time at Old Trafford, United stayed committed to their club-record signing and fought to keep hold of him.
Their efforts appeared to be in vain though with Pogba’s heart remaining set on moving to Madrid, who were ready to reignite their interest this summer after missing out on him.
But now a deal is off the table, United and Pogba have one final chance to make it work.
Madrid have accepted that they cannot sign Pogba this summer without causing huge discontent in the dressing room due to the player’s mammoth £15million-a-year wages and have subsequently distanced themselves from a summer move.
The withdrawal of what was an unwelcomed distraction to Pogba will come as music to United’s ears.
Now, Pogba’s unsalvageable United career suddenly looks salvageable again. But there is first, a lot of reconciling and rekindling that needs to be done.
After all, Pogba had openly pushed for a move to Madrid last summer, was caught dancing at his brother’s wedding when he was supposed to be injured and has struggled to get fit this season, playing just eight times in all competitions.
Since re-joining United in a £89million move from Juventus in 2016, Pogba has been routinely criticised by pundits after a string of underwhelming displays and failing to justify his price tag.
Sky Sports pundit Greame Souness has relentlessly pilloried Pogba, and said many things about his work ethic, social media antics and performances on the pitch.
Souness has described Pogba as a ‘bit of a YouTuber’ and claimed that United ‘had their trousers taken down’ by paying £89m for him after being left unconvinced by the midfielder.
Pogba has been beset with a persistent ankle injury this season and hasn’t played for United since Boxing Day.
Speaking about his long-term absence in March, former Liverpool player Souness said: ‘I see him dancing at a wedding, I see him shooting hoops, and the cynic in me thinks he doesn’t want to be at United. How can you not want to play for Man United, if that’s the case?’
Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville have also both suggested before that United should sell him.
Even in recent days, club legend Teddy Sheringham became the latest to join a long list of former United players to question Pogba’s desire saying that he never steps up when the team need him to.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had appeared to be running out of patience with him but the news that Madrid have pulled out in their bid to sign Pogba will encourage him to give the World Cup winner a last chance to prove he still wants to play for United.
From Pogba’s side the message has been more positive. He has said he is ‘more hungry’ for success and is on the verge of returning to fitness.
The thought of Pogba playing alongside January arrival Bruno Fernandes will bring great excitement to fans too.
Gary Neville admitted this month they ‘could be amazing’ together if they can ‘compromise’ while Solskjaer is relishing the prospect of the two midfielders forming a formidable partnership.
Though the two playing together it not a formality. Fred and Nemanja Matic have breathed new life into their United careers while the ever-impressive Scott McTominay would be within his rights to feel hard done by if he was made the fall guy.
Solskjaer will ideally want to find a system that works for both players while being wary of overkill in the middle of park with both Fernandes and Pogba being forward-thinking players
When Pogba spoke of joining Real Madrid last summer he listed a ‘new challenge’ as his reasoning.
Getting back into a team he wanted nothing to do with a year ago will not be the challenge he had in mind but it will be one that he might actually be motivated by now.
Even Fernandes is looking forward to Pogba rediscovering his best form and teaming up with him.
Speaking in April, he said: ‘I’m very excited about playing with Paul.
‘Paul is coming from a bad moment, because of the situation. When he played also, the club and the team was not good, because the expectations are high for Paul, because Paul is a top player and Manchester United paid a lot for him.
‘It’s normal when you are in that situation you don’t play like a superstar, because everyone expects from Paul like they expect from [Cristiano] Ronaldo at Juventus or [Lionel] Messi at Barcelona. Everyone expects this from Paul in Manchester, because they know he has the qualities for this. The team, we have a lot of confidence in Paul.
‘It’s difficult to find a player like Paul: big, strong and technical. It’s difficult to find a player like this, and he has a lot of qualities. I hope he comes [back] soon.’
Fernandes has hit the ground running since joining from Sporting Lisbon in a £68m deal and looks to be a player that United can build their team around.
The Portuguese star had already scored three times and laid on a further four assists from nine games before coronavirus brought the season to a shuddering halt.
It was initially thought that he was bought in as a replacement for Pogba, who was expected to leave this summer, but now there is huge optimism the pair could turn United into a real driving force in the Premier League.
There has been little doubts over Pogba’s talent – even his harshest critic Souness has admitted he has bags of it – and in the four years he has spent at the club there have been flashes of brilliance.
But there have’t been enough sustained periods of good performances. When fit, and on it, United know what Pogba can bring to the team.
At 27, Pogba is entering his peak years and there is a general feeling now that, without the distraction of a transfer, and with an exciting new team-mate, that he can turn into the player he looked destined to become when he was at Juventus.
Fernandes similarly has ability in abundance and Solskjaer will be desperate to have them both firing at the same time.
The United new boy will also perhaps take some of the pressure off Pogba’s shoulders, not least the creative burden.
If it hadn’t been for football being suspended by coronavirus, United fans may never have seen Pogba and Fernandes play together. Now, with a move to Madrid out of the question, it could be the start of a beautiful new beginning.
The stars have aligned for Pogba, but this is very much last chance saloon for him and United to get things right.