x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Paul Pogba got it right to move on from Manchester United

The youngster is joining those who have revived their careers elsewhere after a frustrating time on bench at Old Trafford.

At Juventus, the Frenchman Paul Pogba is trying to improve and become a world-class midfielder.
At Juventus, the Frenchman Paul Pogba is trying to improve and become a world-class midfielder.

The former Scotland and Manchester United defender Gordon McQueen said there was only one way for a footballer to go after leaving Old Trafford: down.

He was speaking from experience and countless players would agree. But it is not always true.

Cristiano Ronaldo did not think that he made a step down leaving for Real Madrid, nor did Gerard Pique, departing for Barcelona.

Paul Pogba, who left Manchester United for Juventus, is convinced that he made the correct decision by leaving Old Trafford in June.

Given that he is now playing for the Juventus first team and earning far more than he would have done if he had stayed in Manchester, where he would have been on the fringes of the squad, he is entitled to feel vindicated.

Unlike almost every player who leaves United, Ronaldo, Pique and Pogba are different. The moves were their decisions, and not those of Sir Alex Ferguson, who had decided that players from Jaap Stam to David Beckham, Juan Sebastian Veron to Ruud van Nistelrooy no longer had a future at the club.

Ferguson was not pleased and accused Pogba of not showing United respect when he refused to sign a contract earlier this year - said to be for £20,000 (Dh117,000) a week, the biggest offered to a United reserve team player.

Such offers cause tension among homegrown reserve players, who have long resented imported youngsters being paid far more than them.

Rejection is not easy, but Ferguson felt Pogba's head had been turned by his outspoken agent Mino Raiola, who also looks after Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and that he should be patient. He felt the midfielder, 19, had a great future ahead of him but that Pogba was not ready to be a regular starter for United and that his football should come in reserve-team games in front of three-figure crowds and the occasional first-team appearance in a lesser competition.

The Frenchman thought otherwise, just like Pique and Giuseppe Rossi. They were impatient to start matches because they felt good enough, and they were.

Ferguson's problem is keeping happy a huge, well-established squad. He is happy to have 25 players vying for places, but players who do not start matches want more.

Sometimes they go to a smaller club, like Rossi, who thrived at Villarreal. Players are usually sent out on loan and their immediate ambitions are sated, Tom Clevereley's loan spell at Wigan helping him become a United first teamer.

Pogba has found the first-team football he craved in Turin with Juventus, a huge club, the current champions of Italy, who promised him what Ferguson could not - more regular starts, even in a midfield comprised of Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal.

Pogba wanted to follow in the path of the former French midfielders Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane, who both became the best footballers in the world while at Juventus, in the 1980s and 1990s.

Pogba, who joined United from Le Harve in controversial circumstances, amid denied accusations of large inducements in 2006, has long been compared to another great Gallic midfielder, Patrick Vieira.

Pogba has started three league games so far and been a playing sub in three more, plus a further two in the Champions League; he did not start a single game at United.

He has scored two goals, including a winning goal in the top-of-the-table clash between Juventus and Napoli. The goal, a volley from outside the area, had teammates, fans and the Italian media buzzing.

He was the man of the match against Bologna two weeks ago and saw a goal disallowed.

He was on the bench for last week's Derby d'Italia (because both clubs enjoy huge countrywide support) against Inter, which saw Juve's 49-match unbeaten run come to an end. Such has been Pogba's impact, many were wondering why he had not started the game.

He was on the bench for last week’s Derby d’Italia against Inter, which saw Juve’s 49-match unbeaten run come to an end. Such has been Pogba’s impact, many were wondering why he had not started the game.

Juve then announced yesterday that they have dropped Pogba for tonight’s clash at Pescara, because he arrived late for two training sessions, but it should only be a minor setback for the youngster.

From United's reserves to being a darling of the Old Lady in six months, Pogba looks to have called it right.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE