Paul Pogba at Man Utd: The story of how Hollywood homecoming turned into a nightmare

Paul Pogba: All you need to know about PSG-linked midfielder

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It’s now official. After six years and two trophies, Manchester United have confirmed Paul Pogba will be leaving the club on a free transfer. His arrival in 2016 was meant to be the start of another successful period for the club but, ultimately, that hasn’t been the case and he departs Old Trafford as a disappointment – even if it’s not entirely his fault.

Back in 2016, United were planning for a brighter future.

Though Louis van Gaal had won the FA Cup, the Red Devils decided they needed an upgrade in the dugout to counter Pep Guardiola’s move to Manchester City.

United knew Jose Mourinho would be a risk but, with Ed Woodward getting increasingly desperate to win the Premier League title, the Red Devils decided to do a deal with the devil.

In came Mourinho and, not too long after, Pogba came as well.

It was a sensational move, with United paying a massive £89million for a player they’d let go for free four years previously.

That made him the world’s most-expensive player, gazumping the £85m Real Madrid paid for Gareth Bale back in 2013.

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Pogba’s Hollywood homecoming was a huge coup. Stormzy got on board for the announcement video and, late in the night in August that year, it was confirmed.

Initially, things went well.

Pogba didn’t set the world alight during his first season at Old Trafford, scoring five times in the Premier League and clocking up four assists.

Yet he was instrumental as the club won the Carabao Cup and Europa League under Mourinho, scoring in the final of the latter.

Ahead of his second season, hopes were high he’d kick on. That United would as a team, too.

His stats improved – he scored six goals and registered 10 assists in the top flight – but his relationship with Mourinho soured.


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The pair publicly feuded on the touchline during a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham. At the time, some wondered if Pogba had become annoyed at Alexis Sanchez gazumping him in the wage table.

Mourinho wanted to get rid of Pogba in the summer transfer window of 2018, just two years after bringing him back.

But the hierarchy resisted so the pair were forced to work together. Not for much longer, mind.

Mourinho, by this point, started to lose control of the team. The players who had delivered for him in his first season had now grown tired of his methods and demeanour.

And his relationship with Pogba grew increasingly worse.

Mourinho’s final game as United boss was a chastening 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, with the club’s most-expensive player left on the bench.

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And, soon after, he was gone. Pogba seemed to aim a cheeky dig at his old boss in the immediate aftermath, though later insisted it was down to a mix-up with his social media team.

United needed somebody to get the World Cup winner firing.

So they turned to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who had previously managed Pogba during the midfielder’s time in the academy.

Solskjaer managed to coax the best from Pogba during his spell as interim boss, with the France international enjoying a new lease of life.

But, in the summer of 2019 – after clashing with fans following a 1-0 defeat to Cardiff on the final day of the season – the midfielder suggested he was open to leaving United behind.

“There is a lot of thinking [going on],” Pogba said.

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“I have been three years in Manchester and have been doing great – some good moments and some bad moments, like everybody, like everywhere else.

“After this season and everything that happened, with my season being my best season … it could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else.”

In the end, Solskjaer resisted.

And Pogba stayed at United, despite clearly being keen on a move to Real Madrid – who were managed by childhood idol, Zinedine Zidane.

He had his moments during the rest of Solskjaer’s tenure, at times looking the £89m player they thought they were getting.

But he will now leave after an underwhelming campaign, with his form suffering following the appointment of Ralf Rangnick.

In years to come, it’s possible Pogba will become a symbol of this United team and their plight.

Yet the club failed him, too. That can’t be ignored.

United promised to build their team around Pogba but never quite did. He was a poster boy, but not a leader.

How he will fare elsewhere remains to be seen. On his day, he’s unplayable. On others, he’s a peripheral figure.

Which Pogba will emerge from this United nightmare is something only time will tell. 

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