Paul Pogba – Sir Alex Ferguson’s Greatest Mistake
Anyone watching Juventus over the last couple of seasons will have noticed a young, extravagantly gifted French midfielder sauntering around the pitch, plucking balls nonchalantly out of the sky, volleying at the goal from impossible, angle-defying degrees and generally just being a magnificent bastard.
Some Manchester United fans will no doubt recognise him as they weep into their morning cornflakes. That precocious 18 year old who used to be theirs and who left for nothing.
For all the misty-eyed rhetoric that is lavished upon Sir Alex Ferguson, the battle-weary, ageing group of players he had left to his successor David Moyes upon his retirement did Manchester United’s most famous son a massive disservice. For inexplicable reasons, a top-class central midfielder hadn’t been signed since Owen Hargreaves in 2007 and, sadly, he hadn’t lasted very long.
Despite the evergreen Paul Scholes’ form, the likes of Anderson and Darron Gibson just weren’t particularly cutting the mustard alongside Michael Carrick. Manchester United were still winning domestic titles, of course, but it was mostly down to their much-vaunted attack. In Europe, they struggled. Badly. The midfield areas they were previously so dominant in had now become a breeding ground for other teams’ attacks.
All the while this exceptional, avant-garde young talent plucked from Le Harve’s youth academy was tearing it up at Carrington. United’s coaching staff were massively excited. They knew exactly how good this kid was going to be.
At nearly 6’2 and powerfully built, Pogba was blessed with a mesmeric touch and an engine that would make a Bugatti Veyron blush.
He most closely resembled a young Patrick Vieira with slightly more offensive guile. It was only a matter of time before he made the midfield his playground. Except it wasn’t.
For some odd reason, Fergie felt he wasn’t ready and nothing encapsulated that more than his decision to play Rafael – a right back – and Ji-Sung Park in midfield for a league cup tie against Blackburn back in December 2011. It’s well known now that, even at a mere 18, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Pogba. He wanted out – much to Ferguson’s disgust. How could someone so young show such impatience?
It made no difference. In July 2012, he had signed a four-year deal with the Italian champions, Juventus, with a supposed guarantee of playing-time. That guarantee would never be needed as Pogba earned his starts on pure merit alone. His talent was immediately striking. He started 22 times for Juve in his debut season, scoring 5 goals. Last season that sky rocketed to 45 starts with a further 12 goals and 10 assists. This year Pogba is on course to surpass those records. In just 23 games for the Old Lady of Turin, he has already bagged 7 goals and 3 assists.
Those statistics look impressive on paper but when you actually see it in action, you begin to realise just how frighteningly talented Pogba is. At just 21 he is arguably the best midfielder in the world with years of development ahead of him yet. His distinctive style, with the frosted Mohawk, good looks and cocky self-assuredness, make him highly marketable in a global sense, too. In essence, Pogba is the full package that has hasn’t been seen since the emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Sir Alex Ferguson is arguably the best football manager of all time. A titan of the game. A visionary. Calling time back in 2013, he had won an astounding 49 trophies in 35 years as a coach. His career has been defined by ruthlessly brilliant decision-making that was so crucial in much of his teams’ successes. Whether it was team tactics, pivotal substitutions or monumental transfers, Fergie got it spot-on nine times out of ten. Paul Pogba is the one time he got it wrong. Horribly wrong.