“This is the right club for me to achieve everything I hope to in the game.”
Paul Pogba is approaching the end of his fourth season back at United. Achieve everything in the game, he has not.
Pogba made the aforementioned remark after returning to United from Juventus in 2016. United had just appointed Jose Mourinho as their manager and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly had all been recruited.
United claimed two trophies that season but have won nothing since and Pogba’s form has fluctuated from the outstanding to the awful.
He has barely played this term, stricken by separate ankle injuries – the second of which required surgery in January – and, up until recently, a summer exit appeared almost inevitable.
Real Madrid and Juventus have been mooted as possible destinations but it should no longer be seen as a given that United will go into next season without their record signing.
Pogba’s critics are aplenty and much of the criticism he receives is deserved; his concentration in matches is questionable and he does not perform to his full potential nearly enough.
However, the Frenchman can also be forgiven for feeling frustrated at how his second stint at United has gone. Up until Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment, United signed poorly and the quality of his teammates paled in comparison to the stars he played alongside at Juventus.
Pogba rejoined United with aspirations of challenging for Premier League titles and Champions League trophies. They have not come close to challenging for either.
However, under Solskjaer, whose hit rate in the transfer market is magnificent, there is greater optimism surrounding the club than there has been at any other time since Pogba returned.
United have recorded seven wins and three draws from their last 10 games and the statistics behind that unbeaten streak are even more impressive than the run itself.
Twenty-four goals scored – 17 of which have been plundered since Bruno Fernandes’ arrival from Sporting Lisbon – is evidence United’s creative struggles from earlier in the season are a thing of the past.
Fernandes has transformed United and his effect has been so seismic that the absence of an £89million World Cup-winning midfielder has gone largely unnoticed of late.
At the back, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire continue to prove value for money and Luke Shaw is in the form of his United career. Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly are bringing the best out of each other in their respective quests to prove themselves as Maguire’s worthiest partner.
Nemanja Matic and Fred are unrecognisable from the players on show at the beginning of the campaign. Marcus Rashford has not played since January but is already guaranteed to finish the campaign with his best goal tally to date and Anthony Martial is just one strike off equalling the 17 he netted in his debut season.
Solskjaer is building a team capable of piquing Pogba’s interest; the Frenchman is doing extra training sessions in a bid to return to the pitch as soon as possible.
Whether Pogba, a handsomely paid athlete, should allow his motivation levels to be dictated by the quality of the players around him is up for debate.
The simple fact of the matter is, though, a Pogba on top form makes this high-performing United team even better and the prospect of a midfield trio containing the Frenchman as well as Fernandes and Fred is mouthwatering.