Manchester United’s season of highs and lows was underlined by a promising but imperfect season from Paul Pogba.
The 2020/21 campaign saw Pogba play some of the best football of his United career. What comes next is a mystery due to his contract situation, so before we get to that, lets take a look back at the season which has just finished.
What was his situation heading into the season?
Pogba came into the season on a high after returning to the United team after lockdown and helping to secure a Champions League place.
After missing so much time with injury, Pogba had done well to recapture his first team place and form an effective partnership along with Nemanja Matic, although this would soon become unstuck.
Pogba’s preparations for the season were undone after he contracted Covid while on international duty with France.
How did 2020/21 go?
Pogba’s season began disastrously. He was rushed back into the starting line-up despite struggling with Covid and his performances were poor, from the first one against Crystal Palace to the disaster against Tottenham.
United looked sharper without Pogba and Solskjaer decided Fred and Scott McTominay provided more solidity in midfield. Pogba giving away a penalty in the defeat to Arsenal did not help his cause.
An outstanding goal against West Ham in December was a prelude to a disastrously timed interview from his agent Mino Raiola a day ahead of a crucial Champions League game against RB Leipzig. Pogba started that game on the bench and United lost and were eliminated.
Solskjaer stuck by Pogba and he was rewarded with a run of outstanding form in January, which saw the Frenchman score winning goals against Burnley and Fulham.
Pogba’s form had United fans dreaming of the title before he suffered an injury which kept him out for six weeks. The way United fell off without him underlined his importance. He scored the winner away to Milan on his comeback.
Pogba reclaimed his spot in United’s line-up, playing in an advanced role, scoring in the Europa League semi-final win over Roma. But when it came to the final he played in a deeper position and United lost.
His impact in attack benefitted Bruno Fernandes and United were better off for having Pogba in the final third.
Pogba’s form in January was one of the highlights of the season. But his winner at the San Siro in March was the most valuable goal, showing his ability to perform on the big stage.
An assist away in the win over PSG also highlighted his creative ability.
A late chance missed away at Anfield denied him a very special moment to look back on.
There were times where he outperformed Bruno Fernandes, and there were stretches where it was easy to see why the club splashed out a record fee to sign him in 2016, and you have not always been able to say that over the past five years.
Unfortunately for Pogba there are too many to choose from. The poor start to the season, where he was unfit, saw him underperform, culminating with the penalty give away against Arsenal.
The whole Raiola debacle was a farce which saw many United fans ready for the club to sell the Frenchman in that moment.
The real lowpoint was his injury against Everton, at a moment where United were in good form. This was illustrated by United leading 2-0 with Pogba on the pitch and slipping to a 3-3 draw.
What were the standout numbers?
Despite Pogba’s bright moments, the numbers were not particularly impressive.
He ended the season with six goals and six assists. He is capable of more, and if not for injury and the Covid affected start to the season, he could have reached double figures in at least one category.
One highlight was providing assists in three consecutive games in April. It was notable that of the six assists Pogba provided, Mason Greenwood scored four of them.
Next step in 2021/22?
This is a difficult question to answer. Pogba’s contract expires in 2022 and United surely cannot bear the humiliation of losing him on a free transfer twice.
Pogba seems happy at United, but he also wants to win, and you can understand him growing impatient.
If he stays, the role Pogba will play is up in the air and will be guided by new signings.
The possible arrival of Jadon Sancho would restrict Pogba’s opportunities in an attacking role.
A new defensive midfielder arriving would give the team better balance and allow Pogba to play in a box to box role as he does for France alongside Ngolo Kante.
Whether United can make the right moves, could influence Pogba’s decision to stay or go.
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