Wayne Rooney has told Paul Pogba he needs to take responsibility on the pitch at Manchester United.
Pogba’s attitude has been severely questioned ever since he returned from a triumphant World Cup – most notably during the defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion.
He admitted after the game that his commitment and performance was not good enough – a sign of maturity – but his agent’s attack on Paul Scholes during the week has painted the Frenchman in a negative light.
Speaking earlier this week, Rooney, now excelling at DC United, told Pogba he had to bring his best to the table every week.
“He is a fantastic player but he has to do it for himself,” he said.
“If they’re going to win the title, he’ll be the main player in terms of them doing that. You hear a lot of people saying Jose Mourinho needs to get the best out of him but he needs to do it for himself and prove he’s at that level to help Man United.”
Pogba and Rooney occupy different positions and have very different styles, but their roles at United draw plenty of parallels.
Rooney, like Pogba, was United’s talismanic figure, somebody whose ability shines through and who therefore has an extra sense of responsibility to not just perform, but perform decisively.
The former captain’s technical ability eluded him in his later years, for sure. But his will to drive his team forward – to lead – was always there. Put simply, he was the heartbeat.
And that, too, is Pogba’s function by default. Unlike Rooney in those later years he has more than enough ability, only to occasionally lack the will – that drive – to haul this team forward like he did at the Ethiad in April.
That is a maturing process, and it will take time, especially in a team as tactically dysfunctional as the one he finds himself in. But make no mistake: Pogba has the ability to be one of the great United talismans.