If one remark from Paul Pogba’s interview with Le Figaro remained in the collective craw at Old Trafford, it was undoubtedly about how his second tenure at Manchester United has not satisfied him. There was no indication of how he may have fallen short of the expectations placed on him after being made an £89 million then world-record signing in 2016.
There is no mention of the frequent squabbles off the field with a succession of managers, not of the 527 days and 84 games he has been unavailable for selection due to injury or illness in just under six seasons. There was also no mention of the reality that a talent as great as he believes he is has failed to change the course of a club that has been in decline for the majority of the last five years.
Instead, Pogba served up the continuance of a self-absorbed narrative in which he was a player of world-class quality who was denied the opportunity to show what he was capable of. Pogba’s impending exit will provide relief all around after this grumble, since he is out of contract in the summer and ready to transfer on a free to whichever European behemoth can pay £300,000-a-week or more salaries.
Pogba’s stronger performances in an international side as good as France have only helped to underscore how short-changed United have been since he returned to the club in 2016 under Jose Mourinho. There were 39 goals, 51 assists, and moments when he lit up a game, probably most famously under the Portuguese in the 2017 Europa League season, when United last won silverware.
However, United fans have witnessed a player who, while not agitating to be somewhere else, is frequently in the wrong position and attempting the wrong thing. Pogba, 29, responded to the criticism by claiming that he has been played out of position this season by interim manager Ralf Rangnick, who has struggled to find the best way to use him.
In contrast to his strong relationship with France coach Didier Deschamps, Pogba stated, “It’s simple with France, I play in my place – I know my function and I sense the coach and the players’ confidence.” Do I actually have a role at Manchester United? “I pose the question, but I have no response.”
He also acknowledged suffering from depression during the Mourinho era, presumably after the duo openly feuded. “I’ve been through it,” he said when questioned.
“Sometimes you don’t even realize you’re depressed because you just want to be secluded and alone; these are definite indications. That started for me when I was working with Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.
“You wonder if there’s something wrong with you because you’ve never encountered anything like this in your life.” Of course, we make a lot of money and don’t really complain.
“But that doesn’t stop you from going through these more tough times in your life. It’s not appropriate in football, but we’re not superheroes; we’re just regular people.”
Pogba was, of course, referring about difficulties off the field rather than on it, but he seems to have struck the nail on the head. With bursts of brilliance becoming fewer and farther between, no one should feel that parting ways are not the best option.