Manchester United not only thrashed Southampton nine-nil this week, but they showed they have the nasty ruthlessness required to be Premier League champions – maybe not this year, but soon.
Is there a better midfielder in the English Premier League right now than Paul Pogba?
You could throw a few hats in the ring. Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne at City. Declan Rice at West Ham. Jack Grealish at Villa. These are all top players, but whichever way you cut it, the list of elite midfielders is a small one.
The bottom line is that if you have a top player like Paul Pogba on your books, you can’t afford to lose him no matter how big the transfer fee.
On the eve of Manchester United’s make-or-break Champions League game against Red Bull Leipzig, Paul Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, stirred controversy by saying Pogba wanted to leave the club. A resurgence of both the French internationals and United’s form has since quelled this talk, but ambiguity still surrounds his future.
Manchester United must put an end to this ambiguity and do everything they can to sign him up long term.
Paul Pogba is often labelled a jack of all trades but master of none, a player who doesn’t know his best position. He’s maligned as being just a bag of tricks without the discipline or consistency to perform for an entire season.
But all of the above is nonsense, and Pogba’s performances this season are proving that. The 27-year-old is not leading the charts for assists, goals, passes or even touches this season, but he is fundamental to everything good about Manchester United’s recent stellar performances.
The reason for this is simple: he’s keeping it simple. The World Cup winner’s ability has never been in question, but he has now integrated economy and simplicity into his game, making United more effective in possession and enabling them to break down deep-lying teams like Burnley, Fulham and Wolves.
The Frenchman has the courage and quality to take the ball in tight areas and is transitioning the play quickly forwards, allowing the flair players like Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes to shine. It’s an effective formula that has seen Manchester United go top of the table in January for the first time since 2013.
The culture in Pogba’s game aside, his left-foot screamer against Fulham guarantees the rareness of his talent – a talent the Manchester United board must do everything in their power to retain.
Manchester United have not challenged for a major trophy since 2013, an indication of how far the club has fallen in stature since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. Whether United win the title this season or not is irrelevant – they cannot afford to take another backwards step, and losing Pogba would be exactly that.
The message from the fan-base to the Manchester United board must be to get the chequebook out and give Pogba a pay rise that would make your eyes water.
The biggest clubs in the world hold onto their star players, and if Manchester United want to regain their place at the table with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, they need to keep Paul Pogba at all costs.