Why Paul Pogba’s return to Manchester United turned out to be a big failure

United’s recruitment failures

Pogba is ultimately responsible for his own career, but United must also share the blame for his struggles. Pogba has proven at both Juventus and France that in the right system and with the right players around him, he can be a game-changer.

During his time in Italy, Antonio Conte made the most of Pogba by playing him in a three-way midfield and giving him the license to come forward and express himself – but crucially this was also made possible by the players to him.

People like Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio helped Pogba thrive by taking on the other roles and responsibilities in midfield.

Likewise for France, although Pogba has played in a double pivot, he has done so alongside one of the best midfielders in the world – N’Golo Kante.

United’s midfield has been a problem area for several years and Pogba has also suffered for that reason. His midfield partners in recent seasons have been Scott McTominay and Fred, both of whom have their limitations, but there really wasn’t much of an alternative for managers, which adds up to the club’s problems with recruitment.

Pogba’s best form came when he teamed up with Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic. The Spaniard left United in 2019 and was never replaced, while Matic, who signed with Roma this summer, didn’t have the legs to play week after week.

Had United replaced Herrera, or more importantly, recruited a younger defensive midfielder to replace Matic, we could potentially have seen Pogba perform at a high level on a more consistent basis.

Administrative merry-go-round

The manager’s ever-changing situation at United has also played a big part in Pogba’s difficulties – while things started well under Mourinho, their relationship began to deteriorate in the 2017-18 season and from then on things only got worse.

The pair collided a number of times, including on the sidelines and on the training ground, leading to Pogba being dropped several times and the vice-captain taken away.

This had an impact on his ability to perform consistently as he was in and out of the team so often. After Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Mourinho in December 2018, Pogba found the form of his life: eight goals and five assists in the Norwegian’s first ten league games.

The Frenchman had one of the best individual seasons of his career in 2018-19, with 16 goals and 11 assists in all competitions and was named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year.

Pogba was also the statistical leader for Manchester United in numerous categories, including goals, assists, chances created, possession won and more.

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