Red Thoughts: What to do with Paul Pogba at Manchester United?

by Red Debate

Following some mixed performances from Paul Pogba, this week, the Red Thoughts team discuss how Mourinho can get the best out of the Frenchman in future games.

JIM: Do you think Pogba is going to deliver for us next season? Because he hasn’t performed as expected so far.

BETS: Personally, though I don’t wish the lad injured, I think it’s a blessing that he takes some time out because he’s been a liability in recent games. It’s frustrating because he’s got so much talent and he’s strong and imposing. But he needs to do certain things a lot better, e.g.

(1) concentrate – he drifts off a lot and makes sloppy mistakes

(2) One touch football – it was the hallmark of SAF’s successful teams – Pogba dwells way too much on the ball;

(3) KISS – keep it simple, stupid – you don’t have to be a fancy dan all the time, you don’t have to justify the price tag;

(4) Shoot less – the chances of some of these 30 yarders going in must be 1,000,000 to 1.

These are all learnable, if his attitude is right, and if he does learn them, boy, he will be some player!

DAN: I believe he will deliver next season if he simplifies his game and we let the lad play. He has had good games, but no games where you look and think “wow”. With the price tag, he will always be under the spotlight but he has the ability to go on and be the best midfielder on the planet. It depends on what Pogba wants to be.

REX: He’s never going to be worth £89 million, so he should just forget about justifying that price tag. What he can do is get better. But I feel he needs to concentrate on certain aspects of his game. Right now he’s a bit of a jack of all trades in midfield and hasn’t mastered anything!! He can’t score often enough, he can’t assist often enough and most of the time for me, he just spends too much time on the ball when he could just make a simple pass to keep the attack going. So he has to decide what kind of a midfielder he’s going to be. The variability in his roles doesn’t really help the coach to make him better and sometimes you feel even Jose doesn’t really know where to put him to be the most effective in our play. Right midfield, left midfield, defensive midfield – and sometimes, you’re sitting there just wondering what position is Pogba playing, because you don’t really see the effectiveness that justifies him being on the field when others are being subbed.

So he CAN get better for us next season. But I won’t be expecting wonders next season either and maybe I’ll get pleasantly surprised.

BETS: But what is his best position? For me, it’s a more advanced position but still behind a no. 10. If he plays at no. 10, I think he’s wasteful. But if he plays too far back he becomes anonymous.

DAN: I think personally his best position is on the left of a 3 man mid or a diamond. Look at when he was at Juventus. He played in a 3 man mid most of the time with Pirlo and Marchisio. We could easy implement that at United – play Carrick in the Pirlo role and Herrera alongside Pogba, then you could play Mkhitaryan, Mata, Lingard or Rooney at no. 10, with Zlatan/Rooney and Rashford/Martial as the two forwards. You would get the width from the full backs anyway so it can work. Or you could go 433 just as easily.

REX: This is where a solid box-to-box midfielder comes into play. Almost every good team has one now. People underestimated how lucky Bayern were to get Vidal so cheap!! If we get someone to do all the dirty work, it would help Pogba so much in his game. There needs to be someone there who can cover for him whenever he gets pickpocketed and loses possession, while being able to drive the team forward. Carrick is an awesome example, but Mourinho doesn’t seem to think he can do the job week in, week out.

DAN: Is that not Herrera’s role within the midfield though? With his energetic combative style? To allow Pogba to go and be involved in the game higher up? That’s why for me we need either a defensive mid or to play 3 at the back – to give Pogba and the forwards the freedom to do what they do best.

REX: Herrera tries in that aspect of it, but i feel we need another player with the legs for it. The fouls Herrera accumulates worry me a lot and recently they’ve been leading to red cards. If he’s the only one running and tackling, then it doesn’t really achieve much. We need one more with the ability to both help out the defense and be a springboard for attacks with the help of Herrera being the second tackler. Then Pogba can have the license to do what he was actually meant to do when he was bought.

BETS: Maybe it’s Pogba himself who needs to develop into the box-to-box midfielder? Should that be what Mourinho tries to develop in him?

DAN: Maybe so, but you can’t coach a mentality of wanting to defend into someone who isn’t interested in defending. You look at what he is good at and find players to complement him.

BETS: What I don’t understand is, when Mata left Chelsea it is commonly known that it was because Mou didn’t think he was willing to defend (which I personally think is a bit unfair, but anyway). And yet Mou pays a world record sum for a CM, not a no. 10 like Mata, but a midfielder, who doesn’t defend.

DAN: Well, that was the rumour, but he had Hazard who can’t defend. But anyway what happened at Chelsea is ancient history, it’s all about the here and now. I don’t think we can judge any player’s value until their time at the club is done. Say Pogba is at the club for the next 10 years and just for argument’s sake, in those 10 years he helps us win 5 league titles, a Champions League, a Europa League and a few League and FA Cups, it’s a sound investment. We have had players before who can’t defend – Scholes wasn’t the best of tacklers, so Fergie put that in the hands of the likes of Fletcher and Carrick, who broke play up and gave it to Scholes. Look at Ronaldo and his pace on the counter, but he didn’t have to worry about tracking his full back all the way. Sometimes special players are allowed  freedom to go and do what they do best, but one thing I do say is players read the game better as they get older and develop a knack of being in the right place at the right time. That comes with age and maturity and you have to remember that Pogba is only 23 and his best years are in front of him.

HEMOR: Pogba can defend, he just doesn’t do it often as needed because he loves going forward. That’s the main problem with our team. Pogba suits 4-3-3 better, he can have the freedom to move forward while the remaining two do the defending job. If he was can scoring 15+ and adding 15+ assists then I wouldn’t have a problem with that, but based on his previous seasons, and his performance in front of goal so far this season, he can’t deliver that yet. Since the remaining two midfielders will do more defending, we can’t count on them to score goals either. I don’t think Herrera is yet to have a decent shot on goal this season. If we had MSN or BBC in front, who will score 100+ goals, then we wouldn’t need many goals from midfield. But we don’t, so we need our midfielders to contribute goals too. We can get that by playing 4-2-3-1 with Mkhi (or Rooney or Griezmann or another player that can score goals) playing as no. 10. That will help us in terms of goal scoring, but then Pogba will be a problem, because he’s yet to master his role in a 2 man midfield, because that will require him to defend more and reduce his forward movement so as to not leave his partner isolated. I think the more games Pogba plays in a 2 man midfield, the better he’ll become, but I don’t think that’s next season. If we want to get the best out of him next season, I think it’ll be in a 4-3-3 and he will (hopefully) repay us by scoring most of the goals we need from midfield.

I think Mourinho will have a big problem next season, especially if we end up signing Griezmann.

BETS: I agree and I hope we don’t adapt the formation to suit Pogba, because I think 4-2-3-1 is the best formation for the PL going forward.

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