Paul Pogba got what he deserved from United

Author: Doron

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Although he left United over half a year ago, Paul Pogba remains a constant topic of discussion for fans. Since his switch to Juventus, he’s been very polite about his time in Manchester when doing interviews with the Italian press. It was then surprising to read his first full feature interview with The Times on Friday night and discover a cockiness and arrogance that has previously only been talked about by those who’ve been lucky enough to get close to United.

Having kept relatively quiet about Pogba since his move, it feels like it’s time to spell out a few home truths in light of what he said and what some fans think.

Anyone who watched United’s Academy side, particularly in the 2010/11 season when they romped to success in the FA Youth Cup, could see that Pogba was an exceptional talent. Back then he was quite gangly, yet to start to physically fill out, but for a tall player his work on the ball was superb. He possessed an ability to dominate and with Ryan Tunnicliffe alongside him, he had the perfect foil to control the tempo of games.

That he would go on to develop into an excellent midfielder has never been in doubt. Sure he had plenty to work on and improve, notably his defensive work, but he was too good to fail. Despite making over 20 appearances at his new club, he’s still not ‘made it’ and he’s still got plenty of developing to go but he’s starting to blossom into the midfielder many knew he would be.

The gripe plenty of United fans have is with the fact that he is starting to become the kind of central midfielder we badly need – a physical presence yet still incredibly athletic; a player who’s improved a lot defensively but not at the expensive of his attacking ability; a goalscoring central player. Naturally everyone wants to point the finger at someone for his departure – the club, the player, the manager, the agent – but the facts cannot be ignored, every party has a part to blame.

The place to start is this interview with The Times and Pogba’s quotes.

“It was all down to Ferguson. I didn’t want to sign a contract as Ferguson didn’t play me, even though there were no midfielders there. He obviously thought I didn’t deserve the contract I asked for, and didn’t put me in the team even though he had no midfield players. It was his choice. United were short of midfield players like me, but it was the manager’s decision. I couldn’t do anything about it. I was very frustrated because he spoke to me a few times and said I was nearly there.”

Let’s start with the boss. Ferguson’s error was to talk Pogba up pre-season in the summer of 2011. Aged 18, it always seemed unlikely that it would be Pogba’s breakthrough season into the first team but there was suddenly some unnecessary pressure on him and the player clearly felt it would happen because the boss has said it. Maybe that made Pogba become complacent because what followed that season made Ferguson’s decision to not play him incredibly simple.

In 2011/12, Pogba made the step up to the Reserves full time. In theory, he should have dominated at this level and pushed on to either the fringes of the first team or to a loan. The reality was somewhat different – his performances were no better than average and more often than not, his fellow midfielders were getting all the praise after games. Ferguson is very good at rewarding players for their form at Reserve level but he simply couldn’t pick Pogba because he wasn’t ‘doing it’ at Reserve level.

The game Pogba no doubt refers to in that quote is Blackburn at home – an embarrassing defeat after injuries forced a midfield pairing of Park and Rafael. It was proven to be terrible. That said, Ferguson simply couldn’t pick a player badly out of form at Reserve level. There’s nothing to suggest that Pogba would have done any better than either Park or Rafael and as we know, Fergie is not one to mess with his youngsters and risk playing them before they’re ready as it can be detrimental to their development. That Pogba thought he should have been playing shows a real arrogant side to him because it was clear to any youth football observer that he wasn’t ready, something Fergie clearly agreed with.

The other thing one learns from that quote, and the next one, is that Pogba was very impatient. Ferguson had told him he wasn’t far away and he liked him a lot as a player and had incredible belief in him. But, and as United’s history shows, just because you’re not in the first team as an 18 year old it doesn’t mean all isn’t lost. Your average 18 year old is nowhere near a first team!

“When I saw Scholes come back part of me was really happy as he’s a legend, but I knew it was the end for me. The manager thought Scholes had to play, not me, and after that I had to leave. Maybe Ferguson will regret it now…”

Citing the return of Scholes as the end of his United career is close to delusional from Pogba. Scholes’ return was only ever going to be short relative to the career Paul had and still has ahead of him. It only reiterates that for whatever reason, he wanted things immediately. Dare I suggest that if Pogba had been at Juventus last season then he also wouldn’t have been in their first team. That he is this season is down to the substitution rule in Italy as well as a blossoming of his talent, turning potential into current ability, to use a Football Manager term. And that can happen. Players can very suddenly burst onto the scene as things start to click for them – just look at Raheem Sterling – a year ago he wouldn’t have been ready for Liverpool’s first team either.

The author of The Times’ article, Matt Hughes, suggests United underestimated Pogba’s ability. That alone is an incredible oversight into Pogba’s last season and works on the assumption that he’d not be having a similar impact this time round. In fact, United’s cautious use of Pogba seems right when he goes on to say, and slightly contradict himself…

“I’ve been surprised at how well I’ve played and the impact I’ve made”

Well, for someone so confident that aged 18 and playing badly he should have been starting in the Premier League (many, many steps up from Reserve football), why the surprise at his Serie A form? Of course, I’m being pernickety but the point stands. Furthermore, in relation to his transfer, Pogba claims, “these things happen in football” – they don’t really though. The best young talents do not reject contract offers from United simply because they’ve not ‘made it’ before they’re out of their teens.

That nicely brings us onto Pogba’s agent, Raiola, and we can come back to an earlier quote referencing Ferguson…

“He obviously thought I didn’t deserve the contract I asked for”

It was Matt Busby who believed that at United you don’t chase money but that it will come to you if you’re good enough. United offered Paul a contract and he rejected us. United wanted to keep him but clearly he didn’t feel the finances matched up. Without knowing the intricacies of the deal, sure United could have offered him more but they also don’t need to be held to ransom by a player with a handful of first team appearances to his name. Raiola no doubt played his part in this – an agent who’s notorious for seeking out the money. Pogba and Raiola had no need to make money the main concern because he would have achieved everything he desired had he just stayed put.

You may read this and think there’s some deep lying bitterness in how everything panned out and there’s certainly some truth to this. A player with his potential at his age should never come to the conclusions that he did and therein lays Raiola’s part in this affair. The bottom line is that Ferguson rated the kid very highly, chose not to play him when he wasn’t playing well, and offered him a new contract that was rejected. Maybe the club and the manager will feel they should have done some things differently just for the sake of it but that’s not how United works and never will.

Don’t be surprised by anything Pogba achieves at Juventus and beyond. But also don’t believe the inevitable criticism that has come and will continue to come the way of United and Ferguson for their use of an underperforming 18 year old a year ago. They wanted to keep Pogba, but no player, let alone a youth player, will ever get exceptional treatment. Ultimately, he got the minutes he deserved last season and was offered the contract the club no doubt felt his extraordinary potential (and that’s all it was back then) felt he deserved. To claim anything other than that is simply incorrect and an opinion formed on what he’s done since rather than what he did last year.

27 Comments on Paul Pogba got what he deserved from United

  1. Gotta say very well written, yes he may well in the future come back to haunt us, but WE DO NOT ever get held to ransom by a player, let alone someone with such a small amount of first team appearences.
    As UTD have shows throughout their time if your good enough your old enough clearly fergie didn’t think he wsa good enough yet.
    I wish him luck, but like Ravel Morrison he needs to hold his tongue a little and let his feet do the work and without doubt will have a future at the highest level.

  2. Good read, haven’t read the interview but it seems interesting.

    Your analysis of the situation can’t be faulted, he did seem to get complacent and the matter became for want of a better phrase a ‘vicious cycle’. He didn’t apply himself as much as he should have because he felt he should be closer to/in the first team, he wasn’t closer to/in the first team because he didn’t apply himself.

    Disappointed to have missed out on him, but who knows what the future holds

  3. Excellent read, really enjoyable. Didn’t know half of the facts published here about Pogba. Knew that he was an arrogant youth player probably trying to hold United ransom for a contract he didnt deserve. Well written overall.

  4. as i see it fergie and his buddies glazers made fools from themselves here for sure. yes maybe he was a bit arrogant and ipmatient, but listen surely if he become world class player it’s worth it, but we all know how stubborn fergie is.. that most dissapointing in this story was then fergie came out and in one of his interviews tried to blame pogba for this, like you doing now. if he is so good surely club must find a solution , some kind of compromise or something, but it ended so badly, we looked like biggest club in the world haggling over a few pennies, fuck that..

  5. I’m glad I’ve finally been able to read something on the Pogba saga which comes somewhere near explaining the true reality of the situation. I’m not a blogger but even I was tempted to write something, somewhere in responce to the Pogba bandwagon this season and some of their rhetoric just to get it off my chest.

    On Pogba himself I’ve no ill feelings towards him personally. No one expected him to put his life on the line for the club and stick with us through thick and thin etc etc. Though I’ve not liked the, almost contempt, he’s held Sir Alex in since his move to Juventus in various interviews he’s done since (as if he played no part in his development at all and he was always holding him back for his entire United career such as it was), climaxing in this one today. His interview with The Times is nothing more than a PR job, as far as I’m concerned. He may as well had been reading off a script Raiola prepared for him. Sir Alex gave them both the perfect alibi when, the previous season, he came out with the “If I don’t play them, I lose them” quote. I doubt the sincerity of his reasoning for leaving. In my opinion, knowing what we do now that Raiola became his agent, I would not be surprised if his head was in Turin as early as his appearance in Gary Neville’s testimonial against Juventus. You don’t get into bed with Raiola because you think he’ll have your best footballing interests at heart. You do it for the money. Just like Zlatan, Balotelli, Maxwell etc.

    But like I said, he’s free to do as he pleases. He had no ties to the club beyond the soon-to-be-expiring contract and he can choose whichever route he pleases career wise.

    As far as last season goes, I agree with what’s been said by – by and large – all observes of the youth ranks. At best, I would say he was our forth best midfielder that season. Behind Petrucci, Lingard and Cole (in more attacking positions granted, but still outperformed Paul). Even Ravel was more influential than Pogba before his United career came to an abrupt end. He could be anonymous for eighty-nine minutes. But you knew, everyone knew, that one or two moments of genius would get everyone off the edge of their seats. And more often than not create a goal or an assist for the team. Which we’re seeing this season with Juventus, coupled with better all-round play of course. However fleeting moments of genius at reserve level doesn’t entitle you to regular first-team football. There were players more deserving of the opportunities Pogba ended up getting.

    The fact everyone can only ever reference *one* game (Blackburn) as proof of mismanagement from Sir Alex says it all. We all know that was a disaster. But where else could Sir Alex fit him in? Because he wasn’t too impressed with playing cup games judging from the tone of his interview today. That’s obviously beneath him. In what would be the highlight of the season for any other youngster in the reserves/youth team, he expected the best manager there’s ever been, at one of the biggest clubs there’s ever been, in one of the most epic/gut-wrenching/precarious title races there’s ever been, to stick an untested rookie in central midfield over one of the greatest players in the clubs history. Which again, says a lot about his mindset, in my opinion. Dare I say, a Big Time Charlie. A potentially very, very good Big Time Charlie, but a Big Time Charlie nevertheless. Irrelevant of the circumstances, there’s no way we would’ve come close to City last season without Scholes’ return. Sir Alex *had* to focus on that rather than the wishes of a youth team player. We were out of both the Champions League and the FA Cup very early. The league was all we had. You could argue any one of the fiascos in the final six games cost us victory. But a United team with Scholes in it at Wigan would have *at least* earned a point.

    As far as Sir Alex is concerned, I honestly can’t find much fault with what he did. Pogba wasn’t ready for first-team football. As per his performances in the lower ranks. It would have been foolhardy to chuck Pogba into the title race at that time and would not have sent a good message to his teammates if he was bullied by his agent into doing so. He said all the right things, surrounded him with all the right people (having Rio mentor him) and offered him a big contract to stay. Maybe opting for Rafael in central midfield was a mistake. Well we all know it was. But Pogba had no right insisting he was the answer when he was proving anything but at reserve level. The only thing I would do differently next time, is to make sure players like Pogba can’t run-down their contract in the final season. Sort them out eighteen months in advance, even two years and just for one more year, to avoid a Raiola coming in. But that isn’t United’s or Sir Alex’s way, and that’s worked pretty well for everyone in the last quarter of a century.

    But what irritates me about the Pogba bandwagon is the bravado surrounding it which he isn’t really responsible for. It’s the journalists insisting on referencing Sir Alex whenever he so much as faces goal. How he “got it wrong” when he *chose* to “let Pogba go” (!) Matt Hughes’ comments today a perfect illustration of that. It’s the guesswork disguised as facts from everyone else on why Sir Alex “let him go”, as if he shoved him out ‘the door. The same people telling us he was “overrated” when he was going through the motions in the reserves last season are now the same people laughing, telling the world what a huge bollock Sir Alex has dropped “letting go” the “amazing” Paul Pogba.

    I assumed it was common knowledge now the circumstances of his departure from Le Havre to United. Yet that’s also been thrown around as “karma”. As per Ben Lyttleton, no less, Le Havre were whoring him around Europe hoping to get two, three million euros for him. We discovered his contract wasn’t valid outside of France and took advantage of that, only paying a nominal fee. Whatever anyone thinks of the culture of fifteen, sixteen year-olds being “poached” by the big clubs, if the parent club is the one offering the player to clubs, what fault is there with the buying club? In that respect I suppose it was apt that he should leave United under the cloud of the mysterious ‘one year option’ clause in his contract, which obviously couldn’t be legally enforced (I assume UEFA/FIFA had to approve the contract in the first place when sanctioning the deal.)

    But my main grievance, is with Mino Raiola. If it weren’t for him, regardless of any misgivings Pogba genuinely had about lack of first-team football, I firmly believe he’d still be with us today. And the for the long-term, too. He seems to have the elite of Serie A in his back pocket. He has previous with both Juventus (Ouasim Bouy) and Nedved (his former client) and it would not surprise me in the slightest if the deal with Juventus was done, as Sir Alex suggested, months in advance of him holding up a Juve jersey for the first time. At Neville’s testimonial, as I said. Which also may explain why his performances in the lower ranks were so lacklustre. In fact it was first reported that Pogba had signed with Juventus literally two hours before the Manchester derby kicked off in April. I wonder who could have leaked that bit of information.

    Then again, I’m sure Bebe’s former agent isn’t too chuffed about being pushed out of the picture by Jorge Mendes. His input in the David De Gea transfer. In fact our relationship with Mendes generally, isn’t that dissimilar to Raiola’s with Serie A. Our apparent harassing of Kevin Strootman to switch to an agent *we* approve of. It’s the company you keep. As Sir Alex said of TV; “When you shake hands with the devil you have to pay the price.” It’s a case of picking your poison with agents these days. Until UEFA, FIFA and each national governing body bring in tighter regulations regarding the payment of agents and third party investors.

    The facts of the matter are that a Raiola product never sticks around at one club for very long. His whole business model, if you will, is based around moving players on in two-three year intervals to maximise income from wages and fees. Pobga will be at Juventus no longer than he was at United before being flogged to PSG or one of the Spanish giants. No longer than Balotelli was at City, no longer than Zlatan and his test-dummy Maxwell were at Inter/Barca/Milan. Is that really something we should put up with? By all accounts we offered Pogba the highest contract we’ve ever offered an academy graduate. Around the £20k pw mark. What we offered Raiola, though, is a different matter, and in all probability would not have touched the two million euros Juventus paid him for his services. As we saw with the Eden Hazard and Lucas Moura deals; we refused to offer the £6m both agents ended up getting from Chelsea and PSG. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth knowing transfers are settled like this, as if players are property of their agents. But again I’m sure we’ve done likewise in the past, with Rio’s transfer etc etc.

    As you say, the grief and bitterness amongst United fans is because he’s exactly what we’ve been asking for, for years. Who has been taken from us by an agent. But youth players shouldn’t be given license to boss the club around to this extent, at the expense of the rest of the youngsters and the principles Sir Alex has installed at the club. If nothing else I hope this inspires him to bring through a new generation at United like never before. Both the Keane’s look destined for Old Trafford. Powell has all the attacking talent of Pogba. Petrucci’s ability is unquestionable, we’re just waiting for the rest of his game to come together. Tunnicliffe, Lingard and Cole are promising. Not to mention the other three foreign lads in the academy; Daehli, Januzaj and Pereira. Sir Alex’s record with youngsters is second to none. Regardless of what Pogba says.

    I will be more saddened/angry if we don’t grant Petrucci the first-team football his commitment through adversity, ability and loyalty all deserve, than I was at Pogba not getting the first-team football his ego and agent thought he deserved.

    Anyway, sorry for hijacking your piece. “I agree.” would have sufficed I suppose.

  6. somebody’s bitter….. sounds like it’s a shock to you that a player – and a young one at that – decided he wanted to go to another team. Times change and now even the youngins have no respect of names. He left his team previous to leaving Utd and have no doubt he’ll leave Juventus eventually too. Ish happens

  7. @Danielle – well, presuming you’ve read the piece, there’s no denial that there’s some bitterness and it’s not so much a shock that he left, but what he’s going on to say. Nothing to do with having respect for ‘names’ but simply to do with the fact that not every single teenager needs to be starting for the biggest sides – a little patience never hurt anyone.

  8. That was one of the most cry-me-river butt-hurt TL;DR essays I’ve seen in a long time.

    Next time put a pic of Fergie saying “My bad” and move on with your life.


  9. He is an arrogant greedy jumped up little snot.I am happy he is gone! We don’t need kids with swollen heads,dictating to our club.Just a spoiled arrogant brat with a little ability.The article is concise and balanced.Good effort.

  10. I absolutely agree that his agent is the instigator of the move. There is no doubt about that. To his own admission, Juventus is the third Italian club Pogba was pimped to.

    The lad also sought ‘advice’ of a certain French ex-player called Patrick Viera who works for Manchester Shitty, who has always wished United all the best! Is it a coincidence that Pogba is now being linked with Shitty?!

  11. Even better comments from his agent this January transfer window just gone yes just four months after joining Juventus ‘we are sure Pogba will remain for this window at Juventus but in summer we will see as many important clubs are interested’ ahem enough said me thinks good player no doubt but good riddance too.

  12. Oh ffs, some of you are so incredibly blind. Fergie most likely got into it with his agent and tried to “put Pogba in his place” by not playing him. He didn’t think he deserved the contract he was asking for and so he didn’t play him. The same thing happened with Tevez. Fergie fell out with Kia because of Tevez 25m price tag, Fergie even confirmed he didn’t think he was worth that money. Then when Fergie splashes £30m+ for Berba it’s a huge slap in the face. Sure Tevez could have handled it better, but people completely absolve ferguson of any blame on either scenario.

    Fergies ego and determination to not “get pushed around” by agents is why we lost Pogba.

  13. not sure what reserve games this guy was watching but i watched plenty where pogba was outstanding. a big loss in my opinion

  14. Good read but there was yet another arrogant youngster( considered best after giggs and scholes that we produced) who left us that season. RAVEL MORRISON. whats up with him. He switched to west ham for first team football and he is nowhere to be seen in the first team. Thats wat happens when you try to hype or for that batter BRAG your abilities/ You have to have patience. SAF tried to hold them both but couldnt.

  15. @Jignesh Rana – Ravel Morrison did not leave for first team football at all. He left because the club gave up on him. The club DID NOT want to keep him and he WAS NOT offered a new contract. He’s actually out on loan at Birmingham right now and doing very well there.

  16. First off to the United fans saying ‘We do not get held to ransom’, it certainly didnt look that way with Wayne Rooney the other seasons when he was linked to Man City!!

    Lets just be honest here, Alex Ferguson is a legend at United but all managers make mistakes and this was another by United. Quite frankly United’s midfeild has been awful at times and there was no reason not to give Pogba more playing time, he isnt a first team starter at Juve but they at least know to use him as a sub, play cup games and get the odd start against weaker serie A sides whilst he is developing. Uniteds’s loss is Juventus gain, even if he proves to be trouble and wanted a move again Juve will benefit upwards of £15m. And to be honest i wouldnt believe the propaganda about him being trouble or unsettled either, its common for the bitter ex club to try and make themselves feel better by reasoning out loud why they lost one of the best young players in world football for free

  17. @Peter – you make some good points. I don’t buy the bit about him being trouble either – he was a very bubbly and liked character at United. A lot of the players, his age and from the first team, have kept in contact with him and despite what he may let on, he was very passionate about United.

    That said, I maintain United couldn’t have justified playing a player who was playing so poorly in the Reserves. If anyone from the Reserves was to step up and attempt to fill a hole last season, based on form it wouldn’t have been him. As noted, what he’s achieving now, he wouldn’t have achieved a year ago. Yet, had he stayed at United, there’s nothing to suggest he wouldn’t be experiencing similar success now.

  18. For all those who are accusing Pogba of being a a greedy, arrogant so-and-so…bullshit. He makes 600K Euros per annum at Juventus, not the millions that United fans think he does. SAF made a senseless blunder of epic proportions and it is time United fans admit it instead of making Pogba out to be some mercenary who would swap shirts at the drop of a hat.

  19. @Ahmed Zulfiqar – regardless of his wages and without directly accusing Pogba to be a mercenary, did he not “swap shirts at the drop of a hat” – having been at United for just three years he grew impatient. Simple as that. He thought he knew better than Ferguson. Had he stayed put, one suspects he’d being enjoying similar success right now.

  20. Hi Ahmed.

    Thanks for your comments, you’ve said the follow:

    “He makes 600K Euros per annum at Juventus”

    I just wondered how you’ve acquired this information? Surely, you must know someone in Turin that would give you all the financial documentation that covered players wages. I mean, it would be silly to just take a figure off an Internet article. If you could, do you reckon you could get some more information for me on Andrea Pirlo for a new blog I’m going to do?

    Cheers pal.

  21. Stretford-End: Here are Juventus payrolls for 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 season. Be aware that these figures are much like bikinis, they show something interesting but hide something cruicial 😛 Marotta likes to include performance-related bonuses in his contracts to get the weekly wage down.

    About the whole Pogba/Ferguson saga i might write a small wall of text later, but the short version is: Fergie was to scared/didn’t focus on youth development because of the pressure of “having” to win PL(CL/FA cup exits) combined with Scholes return pissed of Pogba(rightfully so). Pogba is 19 now, and other major clubs are giving youngsters playtime to develop so can understand he wanted to leave.

  22. @Stig – thanks for the link. Like you say, Pogba’s wages will no doubt have umpteen clauses.

    As for Ferguson – the last thing one can do is be critical of his policy with youth. If Pogba was playing well he’d have got minutes – it’s that simple and always has been at United.

  23. Good article, but I’ve said it from the day the whole Pogba saga began, it was more about first team football than it was about money. I think the contract included regular first team football, and SAF would not commit to that. I can see his point though. with Scholes arriving, and creating make shift midfields, it signaled to him that he’ll be watching the games from the sidelines for another couple of years, and he just wasn’t going to do that.

    Honestly, there were opportunities to fit Pogba and Scholes in the middle to satisfy all requirements.

    * Provide experience in the title chase
    * Give Pogba opportunity and learn from Scholes

    I think that giving him a handful of matches even would have kept him in the team. It would have shown him some tangible evidence that he is looked at as our future, vs just saying that he is, which is obviously something he wasn’t buying.

  24. So basically, you’re saying a player with higher potential should NOT be offered a better contract than a player with less potential because he hasn’t proven himself to be successful?

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