France boss Didier Deschamps labelled Paul Pogba a “top-level” player following Tuesday’s 4-2 win over Sweden and stated he hopes the international break "will be useful to him when he gets back to his club".
Pogba was an integral figure as France qualified for the Nations League finals with back-to-back wins over Portugal and Sweden, completing the 90 minutes in both games. By contrast, Pogba has only played a full game once for Manchester United since the October 4 Premier League loss to Tottenham, recently telling RTL he’d “never known such a difficult period” in his career.
Deschamps’ trust in the 27-year-old remains firm, however, and there was a clear desire from the France coach to see Pogba carry his international momentum back into the United setup:
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“Just see what he was able to do in Portugal and what he did tonight,” Deschamps said in his post-game press conference. “I know him, I know how he works. He has pride and above all he has talent. When you have to defend, he can defend. When he has the opportunity to express himself, he is able to do so.
Paul is a top-level player and I hope what he did with us will be useful to him when he gets back to his club.
United will be entering a crucial phase of the season when Pogba returns to Carrington ahead of the weekend. Saturday’s late kick-off at home to West Brom starts a run of 10 games in the run-in to Christmas. That schedule includes three Champions League fixtures and an EFL Cup quarter-final.
Currently sitting in 14th position in the Premier League table, six points outside the top four, Pogba is part of a squad that needs to find consistency having followed wins over PSG and Leipzig with defeats to Arsenal and Istanbul Basaksehir.
The 3-1 win over Everton in their last outing was achieved with Pogba starting on the bench, so eyes will be fixed on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team sheet this Saturday. United have moved their midfield pieces around this season, with Bruno Fernandes, Donny van de Beek, Fred, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic all vying for a first-team spot.
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Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher recently labelled it “embarrassing” that Pogba hasn’t been able to hit top form or find his best position under several different United managers:
"We’re still talking about, ‘What is Paul Pogba’s best position?’, when he’s been at the club for four years," Carragher told talkSPORT. “I think that tells you he’s never done well enough in any position or tactical set-ups, that different managers have had at Manchester United.”
Interestingly, France utilised Pogba in two different formations against Portugal and Sweden, employing a 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 respectively. The midfielder performed impressively on both occasions.
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Eurosport’s Ben Snowball recently put forward the suggestion that too much is being expected of United’s £89 million man:
Expectations were high, very high, when he returned to Manchester for £89 million in 2016 – a fee that promised match-winning performances in abundance. Finally, United had their catalyst, a player capable of dragging them back to their perch in the Premier League. The fact he was a central midfielder who thrived on having good players around him was conveniently, or rather inconveniently, ignored.
“Pogba didn’t pick his own price tag, nor did it come with an asterisk that it not only reflected his talents as a footballer, but also his unavoidable commercial appeal. He had a huge social media following and bags of charisma – the off-pitch margins to United were obvious. But for many, that £89m had to be repaid on the pitch. And for a player whose strengths weren’t easily measurable like goals and assists, it was an impossible ask.”
Pogba’s continued strong form for France and Deschamps’ latest comments now shine the torch back on whether United can get the best out of him. The next opportunity arrives on Saturday.
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