Thursday 17 October 2019

John Giles: The illusion that Paul Pogba is up there with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi has come crashing down

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John Giles (inset) believes Paul Pogba's confidence has been dented in recent weeks
John Giles (inset) believes Paul Pogba's confidence has been dented in recent weeks

John Giles

IT’S always an abrupt slap in the face for a young prodigy who has been told from an early age that he is the greatest thing since sliced bread when he comes up against the brutal demands of football.

Paul Pogba is facing up to harsh reality that he is not the greatest player in the world and it may well be the first time such a notion has ever crossed his mind.

I firmly believe that up until a few weeks ago, Pogba genuinely thought he was up there with Messi and Ronaldo or was as Mourinho put it, the “most complete” midfielder in the world.

I don’t believe that Mourinho ever thought that but if he did, if he misjudged Pogba’s ability to run a football match from the pivotal slot in midfield, he doesn’t believe it any more.

Mourinho, searching for some balance in midfield and with very few options available to him, subbed him in a very public way against Spurs and Newcastle.

By doing that he finally jettisoned his claim that Paul Pogba was the man to spark a renaissance at Old Trafford.

This, I believe, has had a major impact on Pogba and perhaps explains why he was nowhere to be seen for Manchester United’s FA Cup win over Huddersfield.

Being subbed and dropped by Mourinho is the worst thing that has ever happened to him and I’ll bet he has no idea why events have turned against him.

I can easily understand such confusion. For as long as I can remember, Pogba has been talked up as a wonder kid and he has all the trappings of stardom to go with the image.

Pogba is so confident that I’m convinced he believed he could be the player Mourinho described and never doubted for a second that he would be the King of Old Trafford.

It was an illusion which has come crashing down around him and the man who helped create it is the one who he must rely on for support. 

This will be a big job of man management for Mourinho and I’m not very impressed with the way he has set about handling Pogba.

His comments after the Newcastle game were very pointed and underlined Pogba’s weakness, which was unnecessary.

It would have been hard enough for Pogba to deal with rejection without his manager highlighting the reasons why.

I like the kid. He is larger than life and loves to entertain, loves his tricks. He is also very talented and when he had Andrea Pirlo (right) to work with, he played exceptionally well for Juventus.

I think he could recover that form for Manchester United if he is coached the right way and Mourinho brings in the right player in the summer to complete his jigsaw.

But I also think that despite the brash, happy-go-lucky persona that Pogba has turned into a global brand, under the surface, his confidence is fragile and it could very easily shatter.

Mourinho’s dilemma is that Pogba cannot do the midfield job he needs him to do and not, as some commentators have suggested, how to integrate Alexis Sanchez into the team.

Sanchez knows exactly where he is on a football pitch at all times and where the ball is.

Pogba does not and this is because he is missing the positional sense I spoke about last week.

As usual with Mourinho, any sympathy he might get for what is a very tricky position goes in the bin because he bought into the hype surrounding Pogba’s huge transfer fee.

But I did find myself agreeing with him when he spoke about VAR and the fact that arriving at “the truth” is the whole point of the exercise.

This has been lost in a steady drone of complaint about the technology but If cameras can remove the injustices which have blighted the game for so long, there is no rational reason to oppose it.

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