Paul Pogba had enjoyed a remarkable ascension at Juventus after leaving United in 2012.
Aged 24, he was already considered one of the world’s finest midfielders and he had scored 34 goals and created 40 assists across his four years in Turin.
He was deemed the ultimate signing at United. Jose Mourinho wanted him, his commercial appeal was vast and his potential return was romantic.
Those positives were the only things that United fans based in the United Kingdom focussed on when they woke up that summer morning to the news of Pogba’s arrival.
The timing of the announcement frankly didn’t matter. It was a minor detail lost in the excitement of making a world-record signing, for a player that had been moulded and shaped in the club’s academy.
As social media was sent into overdrive with the news of Pogba’s return, the player couldn’t help but share to MUTV his delight at being back in Manchester. “There’s no words, to be honest, there’s no words,” Pogba said, with a wide grin across his face.
“I just came back to Carrington. It was like I’d just come back home. I just went for a holiday, looks like I went for a holiday. The thing with me is I only think about the pitch. I want to do great, I want to be one of the best, I want to win titles,” he added.
“I want to achieve things and that’s all, that’s why I came here, just to do this, to become one of the best and to win titles because I know this club has to win titles. I just focus on this and that’s it. I’m just ready to go and work on that and just kill it.”
While Pogba said all the right things upon his return six years ago, the truth is, he’s since failed to deliver on his promises.
His time at United has been a failure. Pogba wanted to win titles, he harboured ambitions to win the Premier League and challenge for the Champions League with United, but he’s only been involved in triumphs in the Europa League and the League Cup instead.
Success is measured by silverware at United and Pogba hasn’t won the major trophies that he wished for in 2016.
United thought they were signing the complete player, one that could dominate the centre of the pitch at Old Trafford for the next decade, but the reality has been sobering. Pogba’s brilliance has not been seen consistently enough. His natural talent ranks him among the best players in the world, yet he’s not been deployed to the best effect at United. Only France have enjoyed that privilege.
The frustrations United fans have had with Pogba have been exacerbated by his agent, Mino Raiola, across the years.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s dislike for Pogba’s representative is on record and Raiola’s relationship with United hasn’t exactly improved since the legendary boss’ exit. Raiola is not one to avoid the limelight and his public comments on Pogba have been unsettling.
Such comments have not helped Pogba’s popularity while he’s also underwhelmed on the pitch. The noise would also be easier to ignore if Pogba was helping United challenge for titles, which he isn’t. Pogba looked genuinely world-class at the start of the season but he began to hopelessly regress. He then sustained a thigh injury in November with France and he hasn’t played since.
Pogba returned to full training earlier than expected last week, but by the time he’s back on the pitch — perhaps against Middlesbrough or Burnley — he’ll have just months left on his contract at Old Trafford. His days at the club seem numbered for a second time.
United have been in dialogue over the possibility of extending Pogba’s contract for months now and little progress has been made in talks. That means Pogba could leave on a free transfer on July 1, which is bizarrely 10 years after he last departed for free.
Pogba talked about winning major honours with United yet he could leave the club in just a few months with two trophies that will be merely a footnote in the club’s history in years to come; they pale in significance to United’s previous achievements.
Pogba hasn’t succeeded at United as everyone hoped he would.
It’s time to put an end to his story in Manchester, it’s time to let him go.