Ever since Paul Pogba returned to Manchester United in a then-world record deals a media circus has followed him around. He’s gone from saviour to saboteur more times than most can count and with the English Premier League season just three games old he already finds himself in a microcosm of his entire United career.
If we stick a pin in life under Jose Mourinho then Pogba was simply the shining star amongst Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s turnaround that saw the Red Devils challenge for a top-four spot, which would have secured Champions League soccer.
Then the transfer window came around and despite the official party line being about a young and hungry rebuild at Old Trafford, Pogba – along with his agent Mino Raiola – were spending most of their time pushing for a move to one of either Real Madrid or Juventus.
The move never materialised, the English window slammed shut and the season got underway with things seemingly settled.
The opening match saw United play host to a top-four rival in Chelsea and, after an indifferent start by Solskjaer’s men, Pogba began orchestrating everything; he was cool, confident and oozing class with his every touch.
To round off his performance he laid on two assists as Man United began the season with a glorious 4-0 win. Pogba, along with England speed demon Marcus Rashford who netted two goals, were the talk of the terraces.
Then came the post-match interview. Pogba was pressed on his future by journalists with an expectation the speculation would be put to bed until January at the earliest but the response they got did not do that. ‘Only time will tell. There is always that question mark’ are hardly the words of a man committed.
Jump forward to game week two and United faced a tricky fixture away at last years surprise package Wolverhampton Wanderers. With the game in the balance, Pogba showed all of his ability with a powerful jinking run that resulted in him being upended for the award of a penalty.
A week earlier, Rashford won and confidently dispatched a spot-kick and therefore it seemed likely to be his responsibility again but then something bizarre took place; Rashford and Pogba communicated with Daniel James also involved in discussions as to who should take the penalty.
We’ve all seen disagreements and arguments on the field over who the penalty taker is but this was different. There was no arguing, no tugging of the ball, just an air of arrogance from Pogba that ‘I’m the man’ and Rashford tossed him the ball with minimal fuss. Pogba missed (well Rui Patricio saved his effort).
The match ended in a draw with Pogba’s manager forced to answer some awkward questions in the post-match interviews. Solskjaer batted the questions away but nobody was convinced, and the word is Pogba was stripped of penalty duties behind closed doors.
United would have been the safe sports bet of the weekend just gone but found themselves behind against Crystal Palace early on. Despite trailing, Man United were dominating with Pogba playing well and when a penalty was awarded there was no discussion, no confusion and Rashford stepped up effectively confirming the rumours that Pogba had been relieved of his spot taking honours. Rashford missed and the focus was firmly off Pogba.
United managed to pull level as the match wore on through James’ bending strike after Pogba brilliantly won the ball back near halfway and the Red Devils went looking for a winner.
Unfortunately, Pogba was caught in possession and Palace landed the killer blow, Patrick Van Aanholt fired through David De Gea to condemn United to a home defeat.
Rashford and De Gea will come under scrutiny for their obvious parts in the defeat but Pogba is far from guilt-free given it was he who allowed the counterattack that proved deadly. Whilst United are not at their best, the questions will remain. For all the possibilities one thing looks certain, this story isn’t destined for a fairy tale ending.