Paul Scholes’ recent dissection of Manchester United’s performances was largely intelligent. Amid the excitement of United’s comeback win against Atalanta in the Champions League, it was Scholes who predicted trouble ahead against Liverpool.
However, his comments about Paul Pogba seem less sure-footed. After Pogba’s sending-off in the Liverpool game, Scholes suggested his tackle on Naby Keita had been ‘ridiculous’ and accused the Frenchman of causing ‘mayhem over the last couple of years’.
I am not sure how much of that is true. Pogba was over the ball on Keita and had to go. However, there was no malice. He was trying to win the ball. He missed. It happens.
Paul Pogba came under huge scrutiny following his red card in the 5-0 defeat to Liverpool
In terms of his time at United the 28-year-old’s five or so seasons have been a huge disappointment. But mayhem? There seems scant evidence of that.
Pogba is a superb footballer who has not shone in his second spell at Old Trafford. He will always carry that with him, I am sure. But whenever I watch him play for France, I begin to wonder just whose fault all that really is.
In the recent Nations League games in Italy, Pogba was fabulous, running France’s midfield with energy, intelligence and great passion. Pogba is a fantastic passer of the ball, over long and short. He can make ground quickly and use the ball off either foot. He scores goals, good ones.
Paul Scholes accused the French midfielder of causing mayhem ‘over the last couple of years’
At United that rarely seems to happen. Pogba seems unsure of his role and often tries to over complicate things. As such he makes mistakes. Trying too hard to impress? Maybe.
All this occasionally reminds me of Juan Sebastian Veron’s time at United all those years ago. He was another midfield player who bombed at Old Trafford only to continually to look like the class act he undoubtedly was whenever he played for Argentina.
Veron’s problem was Roy Keane. The United captain did all the stuff Veron was good at and was not prepared to concede ground. There was not room in Sir Alex Ferguson’s team for both. Pogba’s issues have been less clear cut but there is one similarity. It was Ferguson’s job to make his £28million purchase of Veron in 2001 work and he failed. On Pogba’s arrival in 2016, it was United’s intention to build a team around him and they too have failed.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (pictured) does not seem to know what Pogba’s best position is
In fact, it is one of their greatest modern failures during a period where there have been many. What is Pogba’s best position for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United? Does anybody know? Have we ever known? It seems not and that points to a succession of coaching failures.
With his contract up next summer, Pogba is expected to leave for nothing. Neither United nor Pogba’s representatives want to commit to that.
There is valuable PR ground to be won and lost. But there are no progressive talks about a new deal and it is now November.
And this is something that should trouble United a little. Were Pogba under contract, there would only be a small number of clubs in Europe who could afford a transfer fee and his wages. But a free transfer is different and that brings English clubs into play.
With his contract up in the summer, Pogba is expected to walk away for free yet again
Imagine Pogba at Chelsea or Arsenal. It is not terribly far-fetched to imagine him doing reasonably well at clubs like those.
The fact is that Pogba has had a successful international career — he has 89 caps and is a World Cup winner — and was a hit at Juventus where he won Serie A four times. The only place where one of Europe’s most gifted footballers has not looked like a very good player indeed is at Manchester United.
So whose fault do we really think that is?
Stelling is a one-off – Sky must move-on
When SKY’s esteemed golf anchor David Livingstone retired several years ago, it felt as though the station’s coverage would never be the same. But then Nick Dougherty and Sarah Stirk stepped in and stepped up and the world moved on. Sky’s golf now feels fresh.
This is why the news that Jeff Stelling is leaving Soccer Saturday should not necessarily be viewed as the end of days by those who like their weekend afternoons to revolve around a comfortable chair.
Jeff Stelling has confirmed he will leave his presenter role at Sky Sports after 27 years
Stelling, 66, is an extraordinary broadcaster and journalist and will be missed. But the worst thing Sky could do now is try to find someone just like him. There is nobody.
No, this is an opportunity for their Saturday flagship to evolve, change and reboot. Going forward, it does not necessarily have to be worse, just different.
Stelling, of all people, would doubtless hope for that.
Are we losing the plot over the women’s game?
Last Tuesday night, Arsenal, Chelsea, Leeds and Sunderland played EFL Cup ties yet the BBC’s website chose to lead their results service with 23 Women’s World Cup qualifiers.
As well as England’s 10-0 win in Latvia, Slovakia beat Georgia, Hungary beat the Faroe Islands and Luxembourg beat North Macedonia. Nobody says much about this stuff but everybody thinks it.
Potty to Think Potter will jump
Those Spurs fans hoping the club will replace Nuno Espirito Santo with Brighton’s Graham Potter should think again. They knocked on Potter’s door last summer and nobody answered.