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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
David Byrom

Paul Pogba has defied Roy Keane to revive Manchester United career

It is fair to say Paul Pogba's current injury absence has demonstrated just how he has been able to turn his career around at Manchester United.

United have not been at their best since Pogba limped off against Everton, which bought to an end a run of stunning personal form for the French midfielder.

After there were reports that United would be open to selling Pogba last year, before agent Mino Raiola's ill-timed comments ahead of a crucial Champions League future plunged the 27-year-old's Old Trafford future into disarray, it is remarkable how the midfielder has played his way back to being a crucial member of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's squad.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts to penalty incident against Chelsea

United are now keen to see the former Juventus star pen a new contract at the club, and his form prior to the injury means it is easy to see why.

Since his return to Old Trafford in 2016, Pogba has faced plenty of criticism over inconsistent performers and off-the-field activity, along with Raiola's regular public comments.

One notable absentee from the long list of people that have criticised Pogba is Solskjaer himself, so perhaps it is unsurprising that the United boss has been able to coax the best performances out of the midfielder.

Despite this, the Frenchman will have to maintain his performance level for some time if he wishes to win over some of his high-profile critics.

Here is the sort of criticism Pogba has faced during his time at United.

Paul Pogba has been out injured since February 6 (Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)

Jamie Carragher

In just Pogba’s third appearance after returning to United, he attracted criticism from Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports for his performance in a 2-1 defeat to Man City.

Carragher used a phrase that has been used plenty of times since by Pogba’s detractors, labelling the midfielder as ill-disciplined.

He said: “The performance of Paul Pogba, it was ill-disciplined.

“He was like a kid in the schoolyard, running where he wants and doing what he wants.”

Paul Scholes

Later on in that season, former United midfielder Paul Scholes hit out at Pogba on BT Sport.

The Old Trafford great said there was no urgency in Pogba’s performances and he looked a shadow of the player that was at Juventus.

He said: “It seems like they’re winning 3-0 every game and don’t need to score a goal. There’s no actual fight. Where’s the Paul Pogba we saw at Juventus? The player they bought was all over the pitch, fighting, tackling and sprinting to people, scoring goals from 25 yards out, but he’s just strolling through the game.”

Jose Mourinho

After Pogba had led France to the 2018 World Cup, Jose Mourinho suggested that a short tournament would be suited for the midfielder as it it meant he would not be faced with off-field distractions.

He said: “I don’t think it’s about us getting the best out of him. It’s about him giving the best he has to give. I think the World Cup is the perfect habitat for a player like him to give the best. Why? Because it’s closed for a month, where he can only think about football. Where he’s with his team on the training camp, completely isolated from the external world, where they can focus just on football, where the dimensions of the game can only motivate.

“During a season, you can have a big match then a smaller match, then one even smaller, then you can lose your focus, you can lose your concentration, then comes a big match again.”

Graeme Souness

One of Pogba’s most outspoken critics is Graeme Souness and, in 2018, the Scot delivered some of his most stinging criticism of the midfielder.

Writing for the Sunday Times after a defeat to Spurs, the former Liverpool manager accused Pogba of being selfish and said it was clear why Sir Alex Ferguson opted to let him leave.

He said: “Pogba plays for himself, it’s all about how cool he looks, showing us how clever he is. I reckon Pogba’s only in the team to maintain his transfer value until United can sell him because he doesn’t merit his place for any other reason. Perhaps we’re now seeing the selfish player Fergie didn’t fancy first time round?”

Paul Scholes

After an injury-hit 2019, Scholes said in January 2020 he would not be surprised if Pogba’s injury was not as bad as he was making out, arguing it was a ruse to try and leave the club.

He said: “I don’t think Paul Pogba is on his way back and, even if he is on the way back, he’ll be moaning about something else to try not to play, try to get his move away from the club.”

Graeme Souness

Souness renewed his criticism of Pogba following United’s slow start to this current campaign, accusing the midfielder of laziness.

He said: “I don’t think your man gives everything. I don’t think Paul Pogba comes off any game and he’s given 100 per cent. We know his qualities but…”

Roy Keane

Former United midfielder Keane launched a scathing attack on Pogba earlier this season.

Speaking on Sky Sports after United’s defeat to Arsenal, in which Pogba conceded a penalty, Keane said the French midfielder was not good enough to win sides a title.

He said: “I think of what Bill Shankly said years ago, with players, sometimes they turn up and you don’t know what you’re going to get. Pogba is like that, that is no good for you if you want to win titles.

“For all Pogba’s talent, he should be in this team, but he doesn’t do enough – he doesn’t do the other side of the game. He doesn’t show enough spirit, enough fight, he’s got talent, but that’s not enough to play in midfield for Man United.”

Ryan Giggs

Speaking in January, despite Pogba’s recent form, United legend Ryan Giggs said in January that it was unsurprising that the midfielder had attracted so much criticism during his time at Old Trafford.

He said: “When you set a standard that he has done, for France and Juve, and he comes to United and doesn’t really live up to the expectation, then you are open to criticism.”

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