What Manchester United’s rival managers have said about Paul Pogba down the years

  Paul Pogba is the most overrated player in Premier League history, he’s destroying Manchester United from the inside and he’s everything t...


Paul Pogba is the most overrated player in Premier League history, he’s destroying Manchester United from the inside and he’s everything that’s wrong with modern football. Ah, somehow we’re back here again.

Loud-mouthed super-agent Mino Raiola has been up to his old tricks and Pogba looks to be on his way out of Old Trafford for what seems like the 17th transfer window in a row. It’s a narrative that’s become all too familiar for United’s increasingly weary fanbase and one that reared its ugly head at the worst possible time for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the Red Devils, on the eve of their miserable group-stage exit from the Champions League. There was a feeling the Pogba soap opera had turned a corner. Maybe Solskjaer was the man to get the very best out of this obviously exceptionally gifted footballer and prove everyone’s dads (and Graeme Souness) wrong after all. Pogba was beginning to strike up a promising midfield partnership with Bruno Fernandes – United’s best signing since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure – and combined with the Portuguese for a goal few top-flight players could even dream of scoring at West Ham on Saturday. But five days is a long time in football.

Raiola declared that Pogba’s time at Manchester United was ‘over

Pogba is a genuine joy to watch when he’s strutting his stuff on a football pitch. The former Juve star has stardust in his boots and can beat the opposition almost single-handedly when he’s fit and firing. Even his harshest critics would struggle to argue with that. A happy and confident Pogba appears to tower over his peers in every sense of the word and so many of these opponents have fought his corner down the years. In October, Troy Deeney – Watford’s notoriously hard-to-please captain – hailed the 2018 World Cup winner as United’s standout player, above even Fernandes.

‘I can only talk of my own personal experiences with Paul, but I think he’s great. As a human being he’s quality. Still people are going to go, “he’s not quality”, but he’s their best player. On attributes alone he’s their best player,’ Deeney told talkSPORT. Back in April, West Ham and England star Declan Rice said: ‘Why do people hate on Pogba? Don’t make any sense. The guy is ridiculous, one of the best in the world.’

Pogba is a ‘ridiculous’ player, according to West Ham midfielder Rice

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson jumped to Pogba’s defence and labelled the France international a ‘world-class player’ when he was being attacked from all sides midway through the 2017/18 campaign. ‘Because of how good he is and what is expected of him, people expect to see something special every single game,’ the England midfielder told The Times. ‘Of course, at times, he is human. He is going to make mistakes, he will have poor games but, ultimately, he is a world-class player. He would not have got to where he has with a weak mentality or not caring about things.’ Neymar once said of Pogba: ‘I love how he does things and I think he would fit well at Barcelona.’

What have the Premier League’s top managers had to say about this perennially confusing and polarising talent? Perhaps the game’s great thinkers, tacticians and coaches can give us more of an insight into why Pogba still flatters to deceive when many believe he should be hitting his peak years and in the mix for the Ballon d’Or on a consistent basis. And where better place to start than with Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho, whose turbulent relationship with Pogba played out in public across his two-and-a-half year spell as manager at the Theatre of Dreams. It’s easy to forget now but it all started so promisingly between the two, long before the word ‘virus’ was slapped across the back page of every newspaper in the country. ‘Paul is one of the best players in the world and will be a key part of the United team I want to build here for the future. He is quick, strong, scores goals and reads the game better than many players much older than he is. He has the chance to be at the heart of this club for the next decade and beyond,’ Mourinho said when Pogba returned to the north west from Juventus in 2016.

Pogba and Mourinho’s relationship deteoriating significantly at United

The Special One continued to defend Pogba through his frustrating and inconsistent periods and, in October 2016, delivered his famous attack on the ‘Einsteins’ criticising the midfielder in the media. ‘In some of your mouths, he goes from the worst player in the Premier League to a great player in 48 hours. I’m not specifically saying it is you. I say media, especially the Einsteins. We know he is a very good player. We know he needs some time to show his potential. I know Italian football very well. I know teams play completely different from the Premier League,’ he said. Mourinho even backed Pogba to take over as United’s permanent captain at the start of 2017: ‘He has the charisma, the ambition, the mentality and he’s a good professional.’ But the situation quickly soured and the cracks really widened at the beginning of 2018. Reports of dressing room feuds and training ground bust-ups became commonplace and dominated the headlines over the following months, with some extraordinary quotes coming to light just a fortnight priot to Mourinho’s dismissal. ‘You don’t play. You don’t respect players and supporters and you kill the mentality of the good honest people around you,’ Mourinho reportedly told Pogba following United’s 2-2 draw with Southampton. ‘You are like a person with a flu, with a virus in a closed room – you pass that virus to the others.’

Unhelpful comparisons were made with Frank Lampard – arguably the finest midfielder the Premier League has ever seen – when Pogba rejoined United four years ago. But the current Chelsea manager was outspoken with his criticism during the Frenchman’s struggles under Mourinho.   ‘I don’t know what Pogba is. He makes bad decisions but then does fantastic things which must wreck Jose’s head. Mourinho tried to embarrass him out of it, and I worry Pogba did not get it,’ Lampard said at an event for the Football Writers’ Association in May 2018, a year before he was appointed head coach at Stamford Bridge. ‘Pogba is naturally more talented than I was, he would run all over me and has better feet, but there’s no point dribbling in your own half. ‘All that flick and roll of the studs, I’m not an advocate of that. A lot of young players see it on YouTube and think it’s amazing, but I don’t like it. ‘He has delved to that side too much. His numbers are not good enough, he progressed at Juve but there’s another progression he has to do. He should be getting 15 goals a season and dominating games because he has everything.’

Moyes questioned whether Pogba would ‘make the difference’ in big games

Footage of Lampard’s frank assessment has been doing the rounds once again in the wake of Raiola’s outburst and his comments have surprised some but also struck a chord with so many. And he’s not the only current Premier League manager to have voiced their concerns about Pogba. Is the midfielder deserving of the hype and worth all the hassle? Former United manager David Moyes – now in charge of West Ham – has never been fully convinced. ‘I think he’s a top player but I don’t know if he’s a player who completely makes a difference for Manchester United. I think that over the years Manchester United have had players like Eric Cantona, even Ryan Giggs, people who are special players. I don’t know if Pogba’s that,’ Moyes told ESPN three years back. ‘I think he’s a good player, I think he’ll add to Manchester United, but will he make the difference? Is he someone who will score the goal at really important stages in games or make the key pass? I’m not sure about that. But I do think that the machine that Manchester United are now, the size, the players they’ve got, you know they’ve got a massive stature to their team, I think Pogba adds to that. And I do think he’s a good player, but I’m not quite sure if he’ll make the difference in key games.’

Liverpool manager Klopp was critical of United’s big-money move for Pogba

Jurgen Klopp has been ardent supporter of Pogba ever since his breakthrough at Juventus but the Liverpool boss couldn’t help but question United’s decision to spend £89million on a player they let leave just four years earlier. ‘If you bring one player in for £100m and he gets injured, then it all goes through the chimney. The day that this is football, I’m not in a job anymore, because the game is about playing together,’ the German said after Pogba’s return from Italy. ‘That is how everybody in football understands it. You always want to have the best, but building the group is necessary to be successful. Other clubs can go out and spend more money and collect top players.  ‘I want to do it differently. I would even do it differently if I could spend that money.’

Guardiola feud with Pogba’s outspoken agent has been well-documented

Pep Guardiola’s feelings towards Pogba have often been overshadowed by his well-documented beef with Raiola but the Catalan, like Klopp, has made it clear he views the Frenchman as a world-class talent, capable of mixing it with the very best, when their teams have met. ‘I came up against Paul Pogba for the first time when Bayern Munich played Juventus. In both games I was really impressed. He played in 10 positions. He is an outstanding player and he can do absolutely everything,’ City’s manager said after Pogba’s first year back at United. ‘Of course, sometimes it’s not easy to handle the expectations you have when you arrive here, especially with the amount of money. It wasn’t easy. He’s an outstanding player and I think he had a good season.’

Pogba’s inescapable ties to his loose-lipped agent caused friction in April 2018 as Guardiola revealed that City had been offered the United man by Raiola. Just weeks earlier, Raiola had branded Guardiola a ‘dog’ and a ‘coward’ in the media. ‘Finally, the people discover my secrets – a bad guy. I’m a coward. I don’t understand why I am a so bad guy. I never speak with him so his opinion [about me], I don’t know. But being a guy who two months ago offered me Mkhitaryan and Pogba to play with us. Why?’ the Manchester City manager said. ‘Why he offer? He was interested in Henrikh Mhikitaryan and Pogba to play with us? So he has to protect his players and has to know he cannot bring the players to a guy like me, like a dog. And comparing a dog is bad. It’s not good. He has to respect the dogs.’ However, Guardiola heaped yet more praise on Pogba at the time, calling him  an ‘incredible player… a top, top player’.

Should Pogba leave United this winter, he will be remembered as a player who promised so much but ultimately failed to deliver when push came to shove. The best player on the pitch one week and the scapegoat the next. But, above all else, his departure should be seen as a desperately sad end to his second spell at the club, given the fanfare and expectation that followed him back from Turin in 2016. Perhaps a transfer, a new manager and fresh environment is exactly what Pogba needs to resurrect his stop-start career. But dropping his meddling agent, as so many are calling for him to do, may be the savviest move he ever makes. Pogba will have admirers and doubters whatever he decides is best. He’s a high-profile player of unquestionable ability and that comes with the territory. But the next few years of his career will likely define his legacy. Whether or not he sticks with United and circus ringleader, Raiola, remains to be seen.



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FotNetwork.com: What Manchester United’s rival managers have said about Paul Pogba down the years
What Manchester United’s rival managers have said about Paul Pogba down the years
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