2019/20 Countdown: Manchester United
Premier League – 6th; Top scorer (all competitions) – Paul Pogba (16); FA Cup – Fifth Round; League Cup – Third Round; UEFA Champions League – Quarter-finals
The Question: Will United finally be good enough for Pogba?
The questions that usually rolls off the tongue when it comes to Paul Pogba and Manchester United is almost always the same thing; will the Frenchman live up to the standards of the club? Pogba probably (or unarguably) hasn’t been near his best with United since joining three years ago, but labelling him as underwhelming has at times been a touch unfair. Pogba was United’s top scorer and assist maker last season, as well as the player that created most chances and delivered most key passes for the Red Devils.
Yet, the noise about the Frenchman won’t die down; many see him as under-performing, particularly for a man that cost so much, and is supposedly the face of United getting back to where they want to be. Pogba’s biggest problem at United is the fact that he’s basically expected to do almost everything, be the ball-winner in midfield and also dictate the play, provide the assists while scoring a handful of goals, be the leader yet make things about more than just himself. Pogba apparently has to do everything, or at least the brunt of it, at United, which may well explain why he looks impeccable for France while being seen as inadequate at Old Trafford.
And in keeping with many things at United being about him, the summer transfer drama has been too (to an extent). Rumours that Pogba wants out neared the category of truth when his agent Mino Raiola spoke of a supposed discontent with the quality of the team. Pogba has since joined the squad for pre-season, and the rumours have subsided, but there’s the sense of some combustion in the relationship between both parties. And given the state of United’s squad and the summer window they’ve had so far, there’s every cause for Pogba to be concerned about the team’s quality. Maybe we should be wondering whether the club can meet the player’s standards.
United’s transfer window has been, Pogba aside, littered with rumours and speculation surrounding whether or not Leicester defender Harry Maguire will join, and the English centre-back has signed for a world-record fee for a defender (because that’s a thing). On the exit front, Romelu Lukaku has traded Manchester for Milan, joining Inter.
Daniel James has joined from Swansea, while right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been signed from Swansea. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have left on free transfers, so has James Wilson, while Dean Henderson has re-joined Sheffield United for another loan stint.
United approach a first full season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who did begin with a bang at Old Trafford, and will have his sights back on hitting top form. The Red Devils still have a decent squad, particularly in attack, and Ole did show (however briefly) that he can get the frontline to sing again.
United ended the season with three wins in the final three months, and, if anything, things looked a tad worse than it did under Jose Mourinho. The Red Devils still have holes that need plugging in the squad and require a good start to this season, else Ole might not get to the end of his first full campaign.
The Gaffer (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer)
Began his, initially temporary, tenure with a bang, ended last season with a whimper. Granted some leeway, with many (quite rightly) pointing fingers at the board, but will know that only goes so far.
How will they do
A top-four spot is the aim for United, after another disappointment last term. But United’s squad is far from top-quality, and stability is lacking. Even a top-six finish doesn’t look certain.
Kunle Ajao121 Posts
Kunle Ajao is a football writer and columnist for spotkick. Having made a toss of himself trying to actually play the game, he knew better and got a pen instead of boots. Spends a bit of his time with the game, and thinks he's a bit like Sid Lowe. He's not