Manchester United Say Goodbye To Their Most Divisive Player Ever: Paul Pogba

No player has split the Old Trafford fanbase quite like the World Cup-winning Frenchman
08:35, 25 Jun 2022

Paul Pogba has taken his ‘Pogmentary’ and gone home. The midfielder will return to Juventus on a free transfer, with his deal expected to be officially signed at the start of July, and departs Old Trafford feeling unloved and disrespected. The truth is not quite that clear cut, however. While a portion of the Manchester United fanbase has had enough of Pogba and are happy to see him go, a vocal contingent feels differently. There is still a faction within United’s support that feel six years of Pogba wasn’t enough.

Pogba has made this move before. The Frenchman swapped Manchester for Turin in 2012, citing a lack of first team opportunities under Sir Alex Ferguson. Paul Scholes returning from retirement to claim a first-team place in the United midfield ahead of Pogba was reportedly the final straw. 

After a successful spell with Juventus, where he was a vital part of a side that won four consecutive Scudetti, Pogba returned to Old Trafford. United paid a then-world record £89.3 million fee to secure his services, a statement of intent from a club that had just appointed Jose Mourinho as manager. These two box office acquisitions were intended to clear the fog of the fallow post-Ferguson years and re-establish the Red Devils as a domestic and European force.

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The year is 2022 and we all now know how that turned out. That first campaign together was as good as it got for Mourinho and Pogba. The Carabao Cup and Europa League trophies lifted that season remain the last silverware United won. But sixth place was below par for a side that had just added a pair of supposed serial winners to their ranks. 

Mourinho would limp to a distant second place the following season before being dismissed in his famously difficult third campaign. Pogba had shown hints of what he was capable of in his first year back in red, but United fans would soon become used to hints being all there was to Pogba. While he was a talismanic figure in leading France to a 2018 World Cup win, he was only ever peripheral in the grand scheme of things at United. The reasons for this have been endlessly recited and do not need labouring further. The cold, hard fact is that Pogba did not consistently perform like a world record signing.

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A fair chunk of United’s fanbase refuses to accept this. In this era of increasing player fandom, where the individual is supported over the team, Pogba’s defenders show more commitment to the cause than he often did in a United shirt. The case for the defence ranges from the understandable (Pogba was rarely used in a position that played to his strengths) to the ridiculous (accusations of “racist top reds'' who only get behind United’s English contingent, “top red” in this case being a synonym for “fans who actually go to games”). But the passionate love for Pogba in some quarters just underlines how he is perhaps the most divisive United player in history.

The other side of that coin are the fans who are glad to see the back of a player they see as an expensive waste of money. Some of these fans felt bringing him back in the first place was a mistake. Others bought into his tremendous Serie A form and world class talent, only to be disheartened by his attitude, application and performances. These fans are currently turning out in their droves to review Pogba’s new documentary, a five-part Prime Video series titled Pogmentary. The write-ups range from “Self-indulgent tosh” to “Is there a way to score zero stars?”. The series, in which Pogba derides a £290k a week contract offer from United as “nothing”, is doing little to change opinions on the player. 

The impasse is unlikely to end. United fans still argue about whether Mourinho should have been let go or the relative merits of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure. The Pogba debate will still simmer beneath a fractured fanbase for years to come, particularly when there is nothing in the way of trophy success to offset the in-fighting. Pogba leaves Manchester United for the second time having made only marginally more of a mark than he did in his first tenure. But he does depart as the most divisive Red Devils there has been in a generation.

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