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Just in case any Manchester United fan thought Paul Pogba’s lethargy was confined to club performances, check out the lowlights of his outing against Finland on Wednesday.
In Paris, he lasted 57 minutes, during which time Finland took a two-goal lead that was not to be relinquished.
The fallout from the friendly was not exactly toxic but Pogba’s negligible contribution was highlighted by most pundits.
It always is, of course. Pogba is a lightning rod for criticism.
He has become emblematic of Manchester United’s negatives over the past four years but not of Manchester United’s positives.
His helpful contributions are quickly forgotten, his unhelpful contributions are not.
Paul Pogba was once again unimpressive for France against Finland
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
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When things go wrong for United, he is not exactly a scapegoat but he is an easy target.
But part of that is because he should be so much better than he was, for example, against Arsenal in his last club start.
Giving away the decisive penalty was his overall performance in a nutshell.
It seems like his start for his country against Finland was little better.
Ahead of that game, Didier Deschamps said Pogba “is in a situation with his club where he cannot be happy.”
Deschamps is right, Pogba cannot be happy.
Rather he should not be happy. With the greatest respect to Fred and Scott McTominay, Pogba should have been sitting in isolation in the Goodison Park stands, asking serious questions of himself.
Paul Pogba started on the bench in Manchester United's win against Everton
Never mind the system and how Fred and McTominay bring different qualities to the table – they are starting ahead of Pogba.
He has had his physical issues, as Deschamps points out. There have been injuries and he was struck by Covid-19.
But United say he is up to speed now. And if Pogba is up to speed, he should not be sat on this United bench.
Judging by the respective games against Arsenal and Everton, the equation is simple for Solskjaer right now.
United are a better team without Pogba in it.
But do United have a better chance of challenging for honours with an on-form Pogba in the ranks or without one? The answer is obvious.
It is the manager’s job to get the best out of his stellar talent – and Pogba IS a stellar talent – but it is getting to the stage where it is hard to see what else Solskjaer can do.
Pogba has had another mixed season so far
(Image: Manchester United via Getty Images)
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The response, the drive, the solution has to come from Pogba himself, from a player who should be hurting over his drift towards fringe-player status.
His biggest fans never tire of reminding everyone that Pogba is a World Cup winner.
Again, with the greatest respect, a World Cup winner’s name should be on the team sheet ahead of Fred’s and McTominay’s.
There is a growing consensus, it seems, that the best long-term option for player and club will be a move.
But no-one is going to pay huge money for Pogba in this form, either in January or next summer.
At 27, Pogba should be in his pomp. And he does have a pomp – but right now, he is at a low point in his career.
Deschamps will keep faith but Solskjaer will not and, now, it is down to the player.
Yes, he has been back at Old Trafford for four years now but Pogba can still be a major force for United and in the Premier League.
Pogba needs to dig deep to find his best form again
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Earlier this week, Jamie Carragher suggested Pogba should be ‘embarrassed’ by his inconsistency.
Actually, Pogba should be embarrassed that he has made himself such an easy target for critics such as Carragher.
He is too good for that.
But now Pogba needs to accept he is going to have to prove himself all over again.
It is down to him and him alone.