Great players win big games. Think Zinedine Zidane in the 1998 World Cup Final, Steven Gerrard in Istanbul or THAT David Nugent goal in his one and only game for his country.
In one of the biggest games in English football the most expensive signing in the history of football, Paul Pogba, did not show that he was a great player. In fact, he was lucky not to gift the game to Liverpool, his schoolboy defending at set pieces giving away a penalty and an early lead. The Frenchman was also lucky to not see several yellow cards for his attempts to remove Jordan Henderson’s head from his body.
I’m not usually one to jump on the back of a player after a poor display. However, when your hashtag is beamed to millions around the world on the advertising hoardings at Old Trafford, you’re asking for it. A man who cost £89 million and has his own emoji, should be producing more than handballs and assaults in the big games.
I don’t want this to turn into a rant on the walking social media advertising campaign that is Paul Pogba (who, lest we forget, arrived back at Old Trafford with his own music video with Stormzy #Reunited #PogBOOM) so, lets talk football and get into the stats.
Pogba started the game further forward in the hole behind Ibrahimovic, as opposed to deeper role he had been occupying. You would have thought therefore that he would be allowed more creative freedom, but no, Pogba’s attacking influence was next to nothing, creating zero chances and registering two shots, both of which were, you guessed it, off target.
I can imagine all you Manchester United fans out there now, seething as you read, fingers poised over the keyboard ready for the comment section. At this point, I imagine you’re thinking something along the lines of “Pogba is more than goals and assists, he runs the game, dictates the play.” And you may be right, he has averaged an 85% passing accuracy, however, against Liverpool, he managed just 71%, the worst of United’s three starting midfielders.
Okay, well, how about defending, he’s a big man you say, he can put in a shift at the back. Pogba made one (1) successful tackle all game, also winning just 2 aerial duels, despite standing at a 6′ 3” and committing 3 fouls. All this from a man described by Ryan Giggs as “a complete player.”
I know, stats aren’t everything, but having watched him today, I was let down. A player shouldn’t necessarily be brilliant because someone paid stupid amounts of money for him, but, I expect a player as much talent as Pogba has to be better than this went it counts.
It’s all well and good dominating minnows from Bulgaria and then falling apart when it matters (Arsenal I’m looking at you) and that is something that happened today to Pogba. You could see in his face as he wrestled an unsuspecting Jordan Henderson to floor that something wasn’t right.
This isn’t the first time that Pogba has been accused of failing to show up on the big stage, a disappointing Euro 2016 display as well as lacklustre displays against “The Big Teams” in United Red, perhaps highlighting that this is a shortcoming in his game that the young midfielder will have to improve to really be considered a great player.