Manchester United becoming mostly a commercial entity with an attached team looks a lot more like a North American sports club than an English one. Coming from west of the pond, a refreshing part of being an English football fan is the hunger and fear that is part of the game. Don’t perform, and you risk losing your league place. In the United States, the Cleveland Browns won their first NFL game in two years recently, yet their ineptitude is only rewarded with the best draft picks the following year. A loss is a shrug. It’s starting to feel that way at Manchester United. Kudos to Ed Woodward and company for turning a coin on old glories, but answering a lack of on-field success by listing commercial reach undermines the determination to make the changes to return them to winning ways. It’s the lies you tell yourself that are the most harmful.
Great post to kick off the Paul Pogba versus Jose Mourinho versus Manchester United versus commercial success versus sporting success debate. I know I am predisposed to blame UEFA for most things but I do think the Champions League cartel of elite clubs contribute to this malaise. UEFA have allowed a select group of clubs in various countries to become so economically strong as brands that their results no longer define success or failure. Manchester United last won the league in 2013 but in the five years since have announced financial outcomes that suggest they are doing better than ever. I don’t think we will ever get to the Cleveland Browns level of complacency here because, as you say, falling out of the league – not the domestic league, but the Champions League in the case of United – is still a very real and serious threat. Yet that has happened before, and the money has continued pouring in. It’s not healthy, though, you’re right about that. The column that started this is available here. A little dalliance with something red, and we’ll continue the debate from there.
Don’t you think that commercial results and sporting achievements can go hand to hand? Even Sir Alex Ferguson had his few shirt-selling agreements like Park Ji-sung but he at least knew his role on the pitch. In the current state, what can the Glazers do beside signing supposedly world-class players who the manager doesn’t seem capable of making click? It is Mourinho who embarrassed the club by persisting with the signing of a former player, Pogba, who had been allowed to go on a free. All Woodward has done is delivered players asked for by his managers.
I think that’s very harsh on Park. There may have been commercial advantages to having a high-profile South Korean player on the staff, but he had been outstanding for PSV Eindhoven previously and I do not think for a second Ferguson would sanction a deal just to sell shirts or crack a market.
Four goals and two assists in eight games? But still not good enough? He’s a central midfielder. Even for a centre forward those are good statistics. Utter idiots.
Yes, but three of those four goals were not from central midfield. They were from the penalty spot, so it’s not quite as you make out. I rate Pogba, but he is not bossing games as I thought he would – and probably not as United thought he would, given what they paid for him. We thought they were getting a player that could win them the league, as Patrick Vieira, say, did for Arsenal – but there has been little sign of that drive. He wasn’t bad against Valencia on Tuesday, but he wasn’t the sort who could drag them across the line.
Get real, Pogba is better than Jordan Henderson – and 99 per cent would agree.
Including one here. And yet when I look back over the last year or so at both clubs I can name individual matches that Liverpool wouldn’t have won without Henderson’s influence. I can’t do that with Pogba and Manchester United – the second half against Manchester City last season, maybe. But that’s not even a whole game.
All this hate. What did Pogba do? Is he the coach of United? He is so bad he played a central role in a World Cup-winning team. So bad that he walked into the first team at Juventus. Mourinho has a history of falling out with his players. Pogba isn’t the first, so maybe Pogba isn’t the problem here.
Or maybe Pogba’s champions can hide behind Mourinho’s fractious relationships in the past, to excuse their man some pretty ordinary behaviour and ordinary performances? I don’t think Mourinho has been faultless in his man management here, but if Pogba’s slackness ends up costing a goal against Wolves – and it did – the least he can do is take responsibility for that, surely, rather than issue another swathe of cryptic comments that shift the blame elsewhere?
Look at the level of hatred here – and we are surprised by Pogba’s attitude? I would score an own goal if I was treated half as badly. Talking of disrespect, most of you would never tolerate this from any manager at work. Manchester United expect players to act like robots and anyone not doing so is vilified. Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand – all players who never smiled. The game has changed. I’d rather blame Mourinho for trying to make Eden Hazard, Cristiano Ronaldo and Pogba into defenders.
The fact you would react to criticism by kicking the ball into your own net marks you out as selfish, immature and a terrible team player – so it is no surprise that you would fail to recognise similar failings in others. Equally, the serious professionalism of many of the Manchester United players was what made them successful, winning trophies for the club that Pogba’s generation has been nowhere near as yet. As for your final list, Hazard enjoyed his best season at Chelsea under Mourinho, while Ronaldo averaged more than a goal a game across their three seasons together at Real Madrid. Some defender. Maybe there is another subject you know something about.
Poga was amazing at Juventus and for France. He won the World Cup. Steven Gerrard didn’t do that, did he?
When I write columns one of the things I try to do is consider the counter-argument. If I think a point could be very simply rebutted, then I try to deal with that there and then. I certainly don’t lead with it. So if I was going to make Ren’s point here, I would appreciate that an obvious response would be to say that Pogba has never won the Champions League, say, or been considered the pivotal figure in a match as big as an FA Cup final. Nor has he achieved the legendary status Gerrard enjoys at Liverpool. Meaning Gerrard, in his own way, enjoyed equivalent successes. And having realised my point could be easily demolished, I’d find another line of attack.
I think Sir Alex Ferguson once said: ‘Hard work will always beat quality when quality doesn’t work hard.’ In the Premier League a very high percentage of clubs would take James Milner or Henderson over Pogba. Ferguson built many teams from players who worked hard – look how many times quality players were dropped and replaced by grafters like Park in key games.
It’s a truism, but Ferguson wasn’t the originator. The quote is ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’ and it was a motivational statement used by an American high school basketball coach that was picked up and then popularised by NBA All-Star Kevin Durant.
You’re not the only one who has mentioned it, but why is it a sign that Pogba is a bad influence when Andreas Pereira turns up for training in a flashy white Bentley? I’m pretty sure the other United players aren’t arriving in second hand Volvos.
I’d imagine not, but maybe they’re in the team and Pereira isn’t. The impression out of Manchester is that the ostentatious car is a new development and has appeared as Pereira has entered Pogba’s orbit.
It shows what an incredible manager Ferguson was. I’m not a United fan but you have to appreciate what he achieved. Consistently built entertaining, winning teams and handled the players. I think he’ll cast a long shadow over United for many years.
I think Ferguson looks even better with each passing year; certainly the way he handled wealthy, successful players and motivated them to stay hungry is one of the feats of modern management.
The four you mentioned have never won a World Cup, or even played in a World Cup final let alone scored a goal in one. Why don’t France or Juventus have the same problem with Pogba? Stop over-hyping your British players, they get more game time than they deserve which is why British football is not making an impact on the international scene.
My apologies. I did not realise winning a World Cup was the only yardstick of ability. That will no doubt come as a disappointment to Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paolo Maldini, Michel Platini, Ferenc Puskas, Zico, George Best and Johan Cruyff to name a few. Still, good news for Stephane Guivarc’h, Jesus Navas, Shkodran Mustafi, who all posses the same medal as Pogba. As does Heinz Kwiatowski who let in eight goals for Germany against Hungary in his sole World Cup appearance, in the 1954 tournament his country went on to win. Oliver Kahn, by the way, does not have a World Cup winners’ medal. Maybe you can see the flaw in your simplistic argument, although you were far from the only one to make it. Now, as one of the country’s foremost sports writers, one of the questions I am most frequently asked is, ‘If Chama Champo was looking for some absolutely banging psyche rock from his own country, where would he go?’ And I always reply: ‘He’d go to this guy. Paul Ngozi. And so should you.’ Don’t read too much into the title, Manchester United fans. It’s purely coincidental.
True enough, Pogba is no Roy Keane when he’s playing for Manchester United; but for Didier Deschamps and France he’s a much better player than for Mourinho. And when he was playing for Massimiliano Allegri at Juventus he was so good that United decided to spend £90m on him. But it’s not just Pogba: almost everybody at United is playing worse under Mourinho. Alexis Sanchez – brilliant under Arsene Wenger, terrible under Mourinho; Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford – excellent under Louis van Gaal, terrible under Mourinho. The list goes on: Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw. They were all better players before Mourinho became their boss. Time for a managerial change. Mourinho has some great players but he’s turning them into a terrible team.
Really? Mata was brilliant before Mourinho arrived? Because I watched him, and he wasn’t. He was in and out. So too Martial, so too Rashford. Sanchez was treading water, a big fish in a small pool with Arsenal; same with Lukaku and Everton. The criticism of Lukaku’s Manchester United career – that he doesn’t score against the biggest teams – also applied at Everton. And, GC, I presume you very regularly saw Benfica and Villarreal where Lindelof and Bailly played did you? Because I didn’t and I do this for a living. Bailly looked useful to me when I saw him up close against Liverpool, but he also did when he first arrived at United. Yes, there are some players whose form under Mourinho has tailed off and become a mystery – but there are others, like Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young, who thrived under him. I think it’s too simplistic to heap it all on the manager. If Mata and Matic had been delivering every week for Chelsea, for instance, they wouldn’t have been sold. I don’t see United getting their hands on Eden Hazard or N’Golo Kante.
Ferguson proved right again on Pogba. His talent was never in question, just his general attitude and work ethic. The same with Ravel Morrison. What’s he doing now?
He’s at Lazio, but does not appear to have been named in their squad this season. So he’s gone nowhere since playing on loan with Atlas in Mexico last season. In the meantime, Pogba won the World Cup. Somewhat different career paths, don’t you think?
Therein lies the problem. Punish Pogba, and Pogba punishes United. Not on the pitch, but publicly via social media.
By valuing clicks, hits and page impressions so highly, United have blurred the boundaries of what constitutes successful performance. Pogba has been allowed to think there is a second league table that matters just as much.
So Pogba won the World Cup with France, and what – that gives him a pass for his shocking attitude and lazy lethargic performances? Do we all just have to agree that he’s a top player now, when in comparison to the great midfielders past and present he’s miles behind in attitude and ability. It’s all about social media gimmicks, money and tacky bling. He has no real heart or desire for his club.
I agree Harvey. A World Cup winners medal is proof of a certain kind, but it’s not a free pass. And, for Manchester United, Pogba is very short of that consistency he showed in the summer.
Woodward is no fool, so the Glazer family stroking him for the commercial success has blinded him to the fact that United are a football club first and foremost and all the media instruments are nothing more than a way of following football quicker and more intensely. As for Pogba,, one thing you are unlikely to see him do is the play Wayne Rooney pulled off for DC United a few weeks ago. He just hasn’t the heart and his team doesn’t matter enough to him. An incredible shame considering his gifts.
I thought Rooney’s energy in that game – the play is here, if you haven’t seen it – encapsulated a marquee footballer knowing exactly what it meant to be his club’s biggest signing, and what was expected of him. It wasn’t just brilliant football, it was wonderful leadership. It showed his team-mates he didn’t expect them to do more. He’ll put in in. He’ll drive them on. Pogba should have been that figure for United but too much of his energy has been channelled into self-promotion, sadly. At best, he’s poorly advised.
United are a brand with a huge worldwide support which they like to boast about. No decent football but as long as they are in profit. In the US, investment is made in the supporters who watch live sport – have you seen the state of Old Trafford?
Probably not from your angle, QS – but let’s put it like this. When Mourinho and Pogba ended up falling out because he sent an Instagram post that was delayed by Old Trafford’s failing wi-fi, as someone who has had to rely on it for many years, it would take a heart of stone not to laugh.
Ferguson got rid of a bigger media attention seeker in David Beckham in 2003 and we never looked back. Their relationship was pretty much at the level of Mourinho and Pogba’s right now. Just get rid.
I don’t think Beckham’s relationship was ever quite as bad as this – and Ferguson’s decisions were always backed up by his track record. If Mourinho had won the equivalent at Manchester United, there would be only one victor in this argument. Ferguson’s success placed him in a far stronger position.
Pogba is not as bad in the haters say. He has fantastic games but lacks the consistency.
Haters? I don’t see much hate on here, mostly fair comment. I don’t hate Pogba; I think he’s a very good player, but has lost his way at United and become high maintenance in a way his performances do not justify. As for fantastic games, I’ve seen some good ones, the odd very good one. Fantastic, not so much.
People have the tinted glasses on with regard to Pogba’s World Cup. He was good, but having N’Golo Kante as a defensive shield makes pretty much any attacking midfielder look good. And while he scored a goal in the final, I remember Luka Modric, a far superior player, running rings around him for long periods of that game.
I thought Pogba had a good World Cup but you are right – working in tandem with Kante must be any midfielder’s dream.
Nothing will be done until it affects the business plan. Only then will Woodward react – and there will be tears and blood letting.
Listening to Woodward when the last figures came out, I wonder whether that day is approaching – and a sixth season without winning the league or, heaven forbid, failure to qualify for the Champions League again may finally begin to impact on the figures. They can’t keep pulling this rabbit out of the hat commercially, while the team tanks. The foreign market in particular is very fickle and follows winners. Certainly new fans do. Also, kudos on the alias. I lived near Hope once, too. It’s where Little John is said to be buried, right? Castleton is gorgeous, particularly around Christmas time. But I digress.
Why all the constant criticism of Pogba? What about Sanchez? He’s on a bigger salary and has been worse than Pogba.
I think the clue’s in your pen name, mate. OK, Sanchez has been rubbish, too. Happy now? And where has it got us? The point is, Sanchez hasn’t been publicly undermining the manager; Pogba has.
Let’s be objective here. So far this season who has been better than Pogba? Bar the Brighton and Tottenham game he’s been worth seven or eight most weeks, even in the Wolves game despite giving the ball away for the goal. Mata has been shocking for a while; Matic gets praised for average performances every week; Lukaku has been missing sitters – and don’t even get me started on Sanchez. So ask yourself how has United’s best player this season found himself in this storm? I remember Rooney questioning United’s ambition and getting slated. But when Ferguson left what did everyone say? That United haven’t signed top players in key areas. Mourinho started this war with Pogba. Don’t be fooled by the captain’s armband gesture and his comments. The video we saw of training showed a manager ready to fight.
I realise you posted before the West Ham game, so that makes it three sub-par performances. Equally, a player who makes the error that surrenders two points against Wolves isn’t worthy of a seven or eight. So that’s more than half the league fixtures that Pogba hasn’t performed well. If he’s United best player this season, as you state, no wonder they are in trouble. And for £90m, seven out of 10 isn’t the benchmark. That’s a solid citizen mark, the bottom line requirement, not a guy that drives a successful team. Vieira, for instance, wasn’t a seven out of 10 player; Nigel Winterburn was, Lee Dixon was. I agree many of Pogba’s team-mates are also under-performing, but they are not getting the same attention because they are not agitating to leave the club and in apparent mutiny against the manager.
I’m no Jose fan, but I will defend him when he is fighting a cause for the good of my club. Paul Pogba is fighting for Paul Pogba.
And Mina Raiola is fighting for his next giant pay-day. Never forget that – because it’s right at the heart of this.
Mourinho says that he knew United were in trouble when he saw Phil Jones and Bailly on the penalty taking list against Derby. Such comments don’t inspire confidence in players. When a manager complains repeatedly about needing to spend more money because he cannot possibly achieve with the group he has, this doesn’t inspire belief. It’s the manager’s job to get the best from what he has and Mourinho has not done that. He would never admit this, the same way he refuses to admit his faults, poor tactics and team selection. He’s not the right manager for United and never was. It’s time to go.
I agree that some of Mourinho’s comments and actions have been counter-productive. I don’t know why he said that about Jones and the conflict over transfers in the summer was certainly unhealthy. Having said this, when I was trying to name my best United XI the other day, I had gaping holes in defensive positions, certainly the centre. So he was right about needing improvement there and the club’s failure to back him over that has left United weaker.
Martin, do you think a director of football could be the answer for United? It’s been clear for quite some time the club lacks direction in a football sense. All you have to do to see that is glance across town at Manchester City for an example of how a club should be run. They laid the foundations for Pep Guardiola’s arrival years before they got him by appointing former Barcelona men at the top of the club. Losing David Gill at the same time as Ferguson has always been used as an excuse, but I think it’s more the case that the club failed to recognise that we needed to completely restructure at that point. A proper football person with enough standing in the game to be able to direct the club could only be a good thing – leaving Woodward to focus on the commercial side.
I’ve not always been the fiercest advocate of directors of football because I think the manager’s vision has to guide the club – as happens with Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp – but I can’t fault your argument here. City’s management of the transition to Guardiola, against United’s handling of the post-Ferguson years, is chalk and cheese. Whereas this is just cheese; and I love it. (Look, we’ve done five years of unremittingly cool tunes, I’m allowed this.)
At the time many, including myself, thought Sir Alex had just been a little too stubborn regarding Pogba. Now I’m pleased to say Ferguson once again showed the foresight no other manager past or present has possessed. Pogba is a great talent but he and Mourinho need to go, along with Sanchez, Matic and Marouane Fellaini. Sweep the decks. Well done Sir Alex. I hope you’re getting some apologies, not only for that decision, but for the mess that is now impacting on your great work with our club.
Yes, except I’m not sure it was Ferguson’s call. The two sides couldn’t agree terms meaning Pogba wanted to leave. Not sure that is the same as ousting him from the club. If Pogba had dropped his asking price, Ferguson would most certainly have kept him. He was an excellent prospect, as was proved. Don’t forget, nobody was calling it Ferguson’s best work when Pogba was thriving at Juventus, or when Manchester United had to pay £90m for his return. Look, Ferguson made any number of fabulous judgement calls but I feel his hands were simply tied on Pogba. He couldn’t pay a young player what Pogba was asking, and Juventus were involved very early. Where Ferguson was insightful is in not making snap decisions, which is where I think he would have issue with your call to jettison half the team. For a start, what has Fellaini done wrong? He’s often United’s most effective player, even if his style jars.
Pogba has been out of order but I disagree with the slant the British media is trying to give this farcical saga. He is a top, top player, as witnessed by his time at Juventus and then most recently at the World Cup where he captained France to the trophy. The bulk of the blame should lie squarely with Mourinho, he did not think twice about splashing that ridiculous money on him, and the least you would expect if willing to break the bank is the manager will know everything about the player, on and off the field. Pogba did not just turn Pogba overnight. He thinks he is a brand, rightly or not, so Manchester United knew what they were buying, too. If Mourinho does not understand how to handle him and his ego he needs sacking.
So if Pogba isn’t focused on his football, that’s still Mourinho’s fault for not knowing he wouldn’t be focused on his football? Maybe he thought that the £90m fee and his astronomical financial package would make him concentrate? It seems a not unreasonable assumption. And you would be surprised what people don’t know for all their supposed expertise around a subject. You, for instance, don’t know who France’s World Cup-winning captain was. Not Pogba; Hugo Lloris.
Henderson, Milner, Keane, Gerrard are better than Pobga. Are you for real? If you put all these players in today’s market only Pogba would attract Real Madrid, Juventus, Barcelona, Paris St Germain and Bayern Munich because these teams know how to distinguish between a good player and propaganda. Not a single team mentioned would come for Milner or Henderson. Facts.
So here’s what I actually wrote. ‘…Pogba has had nowhere near the influence of central midfielders like Roy Keane or Steven Gerrard, even James Milner and Jordan Henderson in the last year. Everyone can recall games that Manchester United or Liverpool would not have won without those players. Where is Pogba’s magnum opus for Manchester United?’ Anyone see where that says those quartet are better players than Pogba? No, me neither. So let’s get down to what I did say and why I said it. I chose Keane and Gerrard as players who were massively influential at their clubs; I could easily have put Patrick Vieira, Yaya Toure, Frank Lampard or N’Golo Kante in there, too. All of them were world class players, albeit in different ways. Then I added two players who patently are not to show the standard Pogba is failing to achieve. We know he is a better footballer than Milner and Henderson, but is he more effective and influential for United? Most certainly not. I can reel off game after game in the last year that Liverpool might not have won were it not for the presence of those two – and I can’t do that with Pogba. As for the elite clubs that would only want Pogba, I think any of them would have taken Keane or Gerrard in their heyday; they just couldn’t afford them, or prise them away. As for your facts, they’re still just opinions; much like mine that if Manchester United had been able to call on the energy of Milner and Henderson against Valencia on Tuesday, they would have won. Valencia are 14th in La Liga. A draw was a very disappointing outcome.
I think Pogba’s main problem is he resents not being the highest paid player. He sees money as the sign that Manchester United want him and value him and it affects his whole way of dealing with things.
It is interesting that he hasn’t been the same player since Sanchez joined. One could argue that is because his position then changed, but you may have a point.
Can the English and Irish media stop overrating Keane? Yes, he was good but as a person who actually watched him I felt he had a bigger reputation than his ability. Gerrard and Vieira were much more talented and Pogba has more ability, too.
As the chief football writer of several national newspapers during Keane’s time at United, I saw a fair bit of him also. He was a wonderful footballer and leader, able to play the game however you wanted it. Fancy a game of football, he’s a lovely footballer. Want a war, he’ll go in harder than anyone. Manchester United do not win the last leg of their Treble without him, because they wouldn’t have got past Juventus in the Champions League semi-final. I’m still waiting for that game from Pogba for United – and I see plenty of him, too.
If Pogba played for Manchester City he’d probably score 20 a season.
Who is he in for, Fernandinho, the defensive midfield player? Because he’s not getting in anywhere else. And he’s not getting in there, either, if it was my call. Not on current form, anyway.
I can’t wait until Pogba leaves and plays with real quality players. At United any time he makes a through pass either Lukaku can’t finish or nobody makes runs behind the defence. If he loses the ball no-one can defend. Against Wolves he did so on the halfway line and not one United player stopped the play.
I agree that Pogba’s service is too often wasted. He put Lukaku through against Valencia and that should have been a goal – and possibly would have been had he played the same pass at Barcelona. Yet it isn’t the rest of the team’s fault if Pogba sloppily loses possession. If it’s Lukaku’s fault when he misses then it’s Pogba’s fault when he makes mistakes. You can’t have it both ways.
Pogba is a player that will flourish in a title-winning side. He was under no pressure to deliver at Juventus and would flourish for teams like Bayern Munich or PSG, too. As soon as the going gets tough he sulks. He’s a luxury rather than a necessity. I’d like to see him leave this season.
There are a lot of people on here citing Pogba’s title wins at Juventus as proof of his brilliance yet, since he left, Juventus have carried on winning the league every year, without him. So how much was him and how much was them? I think the challenge of playing catch-up at United is far greater than maintaining Juve’s dominance in Italy. This is the biggest challenge of his career, right here, and it is not going well.
What a load of rubbish. Mourinho is smart. When he got sacked by Chelsea, the players got the blame. But they were right. Now Mourinho has manipulated our fans and the media to ensure once again the players get the blame for his poor tactics and management. He is ensuring his legacy isn’t hurt. Mourinho knows his time is limited but is protecting himself by making sure Pogba is held responsible. Look at those pictures. Pogba is defensive and confused as to why Mourinho is on his case.
I think it is nonsense to say Mourinho’s legacy is unharmed as this season unravels. If his Manchester United tenure ends with the club in turmoil, as happened at Chelsea, there is huge reputational damage. He is not winning the PR war here at all. I’d say there is a very even split between those who blame Mourinho and those who support him.
It is pure hate against Pogba. In the 2017-18 Premier Leahue season he has scored and assisted more than Emre Can, Milner, Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum combined, and played fewer minutes than all of them individually.
I don’t doubt that. I thought Pogba started that season very well, and the Liverpool players finished more strongly – certainly in Europe. My point remains, however, that I didn’t see Pogba having the influence of Liverpool’s central midfielders – and particularly in those huge European knockout games. I respect statistics, as everyone on here knows, but I don’t think it can just be about the numbers alone. Where, for instance, is his equivalent of the home and away performances in the quarter-final with Manchester City – or the seven-goal destruction of Roma? Even this season, when does he hit the heights of Liverpool’s midfield against PSG? They were just immense, and that is what you want for £90m. Immense.
Pogba only got those followers because of being at United. Before he arrived, he didn’t even have six million. He has used United to raise his media profile.
Interesting point. We always consider the players in terms of what they do for the clubs; rarely think of it the other way around. Sounds like a cue for my favourite defiant voice. There will never be another. Until next time.