It would be completely unfair to judge Paul Pogba’s career on one ill-fated moment, but that’s the level of responsibility which accompanies world-record price-tags.
When those glorious chances fall to you on the biggest stage, you have to be talented, composed and ready enough to take advantage. But as a corner was fizzed into the unmarked Frenchman during Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley, he completely mistimed a header that didn’t even trouble Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
And in truth, it wasn’t just that moment which highlighted how Pogba’s struggled to truly embrace his superstar role since re-joining Manchester United.
Sure, there’s been talismanic performances and glistening moments, like his second-half brace in the Manchester derby, but they’ve been few and far between and rarely come when there’s something as precious on the line as the club’s final chance of silverware for 2017/18.
Indeed, Pogba’s performance on Saturday encapsulated much of the Red Devils’ in general; a lack of penetration and potency going forward, highlighted by just one chance created and none of his four efforts at goal hitting the target, combined with some real lethargy on the ball, his 15 possession losses representing the most of any midfielder for either side, and a dose of disappointing defending, managing only one tackle in a full ninety minutes.
After the full time whistle, confirming United’s 1-0 defeat to last season’s champions, there was a look on Mourinho’s face that seemed to question where his leaders were; where were the superstars he’s spent so much money on, where were the characters he expected to take the game by the scruff of the neck, where were the players in their prime blessed with the talent to carve open this inconsistent Chelsea side? Pogba should fall into all three categories, but was found wanting on the big stage.
That’s not to suggest he was the reason United lost on Sunday. Pogba’s become an easy target for when United don’t play well, either for his own poor form or for how Mourinho has struggled to bring the best out of him at Old Trafford.
But it typifies the underlying concern with this Red Devils squad; for all the vast fortunes spent, for all the Hollywood names, United rarely embrace the pressure of season-defining moments by producing their best performances.
“We are never sure of anything but contractually it’s sure, yes. I can never look far into the future. It also depends how it goes with the club, how things work out.”
Pogba – who Transfermarkt value at £81million – was suspiciously non-committal on his future after the match, and Mourinho would likely tell reporters the feeling is mutual. After two seasons back at Old Trafford, Pogba appears no more the talismanic, reliable leader Mourinho hoped he could be moulded into than when he returned from Juventus in summer 2015.
So, United fans, is it time to find new leaders and superstars by selling Pogba this summer? Let us know by voting below…