If one phrase from Paul Pogba’s interview with Le Figaro will have stuck in the collective craw at Old Trafford it was surely about how his second spell at Manchester United has failed to satisfy him. There was no mention of the quid pro quo of how he might have fallen short of the expectations placed on him after being made, in 2016, an £89million then world record signing.
No mention of the frequent aggro off the pitch with a succession of managers and no mention of the 527 days and 84 games in just under six seasons he has been unavailable for selection either injured or ill. And there was little mention either of the fact that a talent as huge as he believes he is failed to alter the trajectory of a club which has been sliding for much of the last five years.
Instead what Pogba served up was the continuation of a self-absorbed narrative that here was a player of world-class talent who continues to be denied the chance to show what he can do. After this moan, out of contract in the summer and ready to move on a free to whichever European giant can fund £300,000-a-week or more wages, Pogba’s likely exit will bring relief all round.
Pogba’s better displays in an international side as good as France have only served to highlight how short-changed United have been since he rejoined the club under Jose Mourinho in 2016. There were 39 goals, 51 assists and moments when he lit up a pitch, perhaps notably under the Portuguese in the season when United last won silverware in the Europa League in 2017.
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But generally United fans have seen a player who if not agitating to be somewhere else has often been in the wrong position attempting the wrong thing. Pogba, 29, moved to address that criticism insisting he has been played out of position this season by interim boss Ralf Rangnick, a manager who has not known how to deploy him to best effect.
Contrasting an excellent relationship with France boss Didier Deschamps, Pogba said: “It’s simple with France, I play in my position – I know my role and I feel the confidence of the coach and the players. At Manchester United do I really have a role? I ask the question but I don’t have an answer.”
He also admitted he suffered depression during the Mourinho years presumably after the pair fell out publicly. I have been through it,” he confirmed when asked.
“Sometimes you don’t even know you have depression, you just want to be isolated, to be all alone, these are the unmistakable signs. From a personal perspective, that started when I was with Jose Mourinho at Manchester.
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“You ask yourself if there is something wrong with you, because you have never experienced these moments in your life. Of course we earn a lot of money and we don’t complain, really.
“But that does not prevent you from going through these moments in your life which are more difficult than others. In football it is not acceptable but we are not superheroes, we are only human beings.”
Pogba was of course talking of struggles off the pitch rather than on it but that appeared to hit the nail on the head. With the flashes of brilliance becoming fewer and farther between no one should feel a parting of the ways is not the right thing all round.
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