Former Manchester United midfielder Ray Wilkins believes criticism of Paul Pogba’s start to life at Manchester United is unfair.
The Frenchman has made a mixed start to his time at Old Trafford since arriving for a world record £89m fee back in August, displaying the occasional moment of brilliance whilst also struggling to perfect the defensive side of his midfield duties.
This was very much reflected in Man United’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool at Anfield: a sublime cross to Zlatan Ibrahimovic after some excellent skill occurred in the midst of a energetic but ultimately muted performance.
Speaking after the game, Wilkins was quick to defend the 23-year-old.
“I think he [Pogba] is an excellent footballer, I really do,” he said.
“When he went there, I thought he would be used more as part of a two in midfield, breaking forward with one holding someone like a Michael Carrick, who Jose doesn’t seem to fancy at the moment.
“I thought he did okay – some of his decisions were a tad rash. He was almost playing as a 10 up alongside Ibrahimovic.
“He did demonstrate one moment of absolute class in the second half when he sold a dummy to Jordan Henderson and whipped the ball in there to Ibrahimovic. Arguably, that was the best chance of the whole match and if he had scored with the header it would be a totally different story.”
Deployed as a No.10, Pogba – in a game hallmarked by a furious midfield battle between Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Emre Can and Jordan Henderson – saw little of the ball against Liverpool. He was, all things considered, a useful presence at No.10, often looking to drive forward and make things happen. His overall impact, however, was limited: the Frenchman was guilty of giving the ball away cheaply at times and occasionally struggled with the game’s sheer intensity.
That said, even in an Anfield cauldron that didn’t allow for anybody to thrive on an individual level, Pogba did manage to produce a possibly game changing moment: his cross to Ibrahimovic was simply sensational, and the Swede should have done far better with his effort. It acted as a reminder to United fans – a reminder of Pogba’s unquestionable brilliance, even when things aren’t going his way.