Manchester United’s clown car has pulled up, and from the tiny vehicle emerged Jose Mourinho, Ed Woodward and Paul Pogba. From nowhere then emerged Paul Scholes, Mino Raiola, and finally Micky Phelan. Given this is United in their current state, there will be more people coming out to offer their opinion. Pogba could end all this guff if he wanted, but there seems to be little reason for him to do so.
In a meeting between Pogba and Mourinho, Mourinho was rumoured to have told Pogba that if he wanted to leave, he should make a formal request. In turn, Pogba was said to have told his boss that he could go through his agent in future. United denied any of this took place, of course, and that denial can be treated with appropriate scepticism.
When Pogba left Manchester United as a teenager, it was because Alex Ferguson held Raiola in such contempt that there was no way through to getting a new contract, and he was for whatever reason not afforded the first team chances his talent deserved. A rapid arc of improvement at Juventus, with plenty of on-field success, showed what United missed while they were starved of money under the Glazers.
Now that the Glazers are in the midst of alternately panic-buying and panic-sacking under the clamitous Woodward, Mourinho has decided to kick off, as is his tradition. In turn, Raiola has taken to kicking off in the press and on Twitter, as his own tradition. He has informed the constantly miserable Scholes, one of the Kings of Rock and Roll, that he is ill-informed and ill-suited to the role of Director of Football. He sarcastically claimed that he would suffer sleepless nights trying to find a new club for client.
It is clear that Barcelona will be back in for Pogba next summer, if not sooner, after a failed bid this August. Juventus, with Cristiano Ronaldo, appear to be ready to bring him back as they try to convert Juventus from the best side in Italy to the best in the world. Real Madrid would likely be in the running for his signature, as would PSG, if they can walk the FFP tightrope.
Pogba could end all this with a tweet. Instead of conspicuously leaving out Mourinho from his thoughts after the win over Leicester, he could make it plain he admires the manager and that he wants to stay at the club. He could commit his future to the club and show his best on the field at Old Trafford for at least the next season. A run of form could, despite United’s defence, see them challenge for the title in a more convincing fashion than they did last year. Pogba is good enough to drag the side with him, if he wants to.
Why he should bother is less obvious. He is 25, has Italian league titles, the Europa League, the World Cup, and millions of pounds. There are millions more to come. He is clearly happy with his lot. Being the best in the world is within his grasp, but unlike Kylian Mbappe, say, it doesn’t appear to motivate him. More often than not he assumes, rather than proves, his greatness. He is a player convinced by his own highlights reel.
Perhaps after a summer of playing with World champions, he has returned to Marouane Fellaini, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw, and decided it is beneath him. In terms of talent, that’s true. In terms of respecting his salary and obligations, of course he should try harder. The problem here is that the consequences of playing poorly are no worse than those of doing well. At the very worst, he can double his wages by signing a new contract at United and achieving parity with Alexis Sanchez. Woodward wants Pogba above all else for his ability to shill for tractors, not to actually win anything. A top four finish earns plenty of money for the Glazers. There is no motivation to back Mourinho in his hard-nosed approach to management, and so no reason for any player to take heed.
Pogba should be playing better considering his wages. He should not have games where his attitude isn’t right, as he admitted after Sunday afternoon. But looking at United, and looking at his future, we might as well be realistic. What’s going to make him change?