Sunday 28 May 2017

Pogba: Off-field antics don't affect my performance

United star insists transfer fee not a burden, writes James Ducker

Manchester United's Paul Pogba not happy with the criticism that has come his way this season
Manchester United's Paul Pogba not happy with the criticism that has come his way this season

James Ducker

Paul Pogba has accused his critics of overburdening him with unrealistic expectations but dismissed suggestions that his off-field antics have undermined his form and focus.

He also insisted that he long ago banished his "mountainous" £89m transfer fee from his mind.

Speaking for the first time since his world-record move from Juventus last August, the France midfielder used the eve of Manchester United's biggest game of the season to offer a candid assessment of his first eight months back at Old Trafford. If United pack as much of a punch in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final against Anderlecht at the Constant Vanden Stock stadium this evening, the return game could be academic.

Sporting a pair of diamond ear-rings and gold-rimmed glasses, Pogba claimed that his transfer fee has led people to judge him like they would a free-scoring striker and scoffed at the notion that his commercial activities and relentless social media presence were affecting his performances on the pitch.

celebration Former United defender Rio Ferdinand criticised Pogba and team-mate Jesse Lingard for posting a video of a new celebration online in the days before a goalless draw at home to Hull City in February, with the club sixth in the Premier League table.

The previous month, Pogba had attracted widespread opprobrium for the launch of a new personalised Twitter emoji that was showcased on perimeters boards around Old Trafford during the 1-1 draw against Liverpool, when he missed a great chance and conceded a penalty. Pogba said he had spoken with Ferdinand in the wake of his criticism but he was adamant that he did not need to keep a lower profile.

"What is on the pitch is on the pitch and what is outside the pitch is outside the pitch," the midfielder said. "I love life. I like to dance. It doesn't affect me on the pitch. The time is different. Before you wouldn't do this and now you do it.

"In America, the basketball players listen to music. For me, it's just enjoying life with Jesse Lingard. When I'm on the pitch, I'm serious. I'm focused and I want to win. I took it as advice because it's a big club. I spoke with him (Ferdinand) and he told me what he meant. It's different generations, it's nothing bad."

Pogba has scored seven goals in 43 games for United in all competitions but hit the woodwork nine times and created a number of chances that team-mates have spurned. He stressed the margins have been thin and claimed he is being viewed differently to other midfielders because of the "mountain of a transfer fee" he says he has already forgotten.

"The people are looking at me and they judge me on not scoring goals and stuff like this," he said. "If I was scoring goals, the people wouldn't talk like this.

"I'm doing a job. I'm a midfield player and some people think I'm an attacking player. I give some assists to some people and they don't score - it can happen.

"Nobody talks about this but it's fine. People talk about the mountain of the transfer (fee). People are looking me saying, 'Pogba should score goals, Pogba should do this'. Sometimes if I can make the team win, I will do it. But my job is to be a midfielder, make the game, do some assists.

"If I was scoring the goals that hit the crossbar I don't think people would speak like this.

"It's true that I've had a lot of chances. But we keep trying and training hard to make it happen. I feel great. We won two trophies.

"Obviously I want to do better, you can always do better."

Anderlecht v Manchester Utd, Live, BT Sport 2, 8.05

Telegraph.co.uk

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