Manchester United have won twice and lost twice this season, but even the victories have been quickly forgotten because of the ongoing Paul Pogba soap opera.
The French midfielder had just been described as a “monster” by his manager Jose Mourinho after a man of the match-winning display in the 2-1 win over Leicester City just four days after returning for pre-season training but Pogba himself followed up by cryptically stating: “There are things that I cannot say; otherwise, I will get fined.”
United then suffered reverses to Brighton and Tottenham but just as the pressure on Mourinho appeared to be intensifying, they won 2-0 at Burnley in their final fixture before the international break on an afternoon filled with showings of unity between the players, the fans and the manager. Harmony, it appeared, was being restored.
Except it took Pogba no time at all to throw another spanner in the works. By the middle of last week, he was telling the French press that there are no certainties about his status as a United player.
“My future is currently in Manchester,” he said. “I still have a contract, I’m playing there at the moment, but who knows what will happen in the next few months?"
This was hardly Pogba nailing his colours to the Manchester United mast. In football parlance, he was inviting speculation, fanning the flames amidst talk that Barcelona and Juventus are both keeping a keen eye on developments.
While the theory has again been promoted that his agent Mino Raiola promised Pogba that he would sort a big-money move to one of Real Madrid and Barcelona after a few years on a lucrative deal at Old Trafford, the current state of affairs is doing the player no favours in terms of creating the favourable environment in which to perform.
It is certainly not winning him much support among the fan base.
Four fans have their say on everything going on with Paul Pogba...
This weeks HUGE Debate -> https://t.co/LtgUkZx4yE#MUFC pic.twitter.com/Aqx641e2le — Full Time DEVILS (@FullTimeDEVILS) September 12, 2018
Pogba’s latest message was that there “will always be just rumours” but if indeed he does envisage himself remaining with Manchester United for the longer term, then he can remain in full control of the speculation by simply shutting it down.
Telling Telefoot “For as long as you don’t see me like that with the [Barcelona] shirt, it’s not official,” while miming a presentation ceremony is not committing yourself to your current club.
Telling people you fear being fined if you open up is not committing yourself to your current club. United fans deserve more than they are getting from Pogba in terms of his willingness to prove his head is where it ought to be.
While some of his more disappointing performances on the field have been exaggerated since he arrived at United, he has not delivered a consistently high enough standard for the supporters to mass behind him at a time when they cannot be certain what his motivations are.
All the while, Mourinho’s charm offensive with the crowd is helping to alienate Pogba.
There have clearly been some issues between player and manager, and, while there is nothing to say that there has to be an exemplary relationship, sides are being taken amongst the fan base.
The general consensus is that Mourinho will not be around forever given his track record, but still it appears many would gladly see the player out before the manager.
Since Pogba was made captain on day one (temporary i know) he’s let Utd and Mourinho down both on and off the field. — Pilib De Brún (Phil Brown) (@Malachians) September 6, 2018
To blame Mourinho for Pogba not wanting to be here would make some sort of sense if the player himself had not already walked away from Sir Alex Ferguson. This is on Paul Pogba and it’s time he took responsibility for that. All I can see Mourinho doing is wanting more from him. — Anna_MUFC🥂 (@mufc_anna) September 7, 2018
Some are wondering whether Sir Alex Ferguson was right all along about Raiola leading Pogba down a murky path. Others are starting to believe they will never see the sight of the 25-year-old lifting a Premier League title with the club he claimed was his home when he returned from Juventus in 2016.
Either way, the very fact that there is conjecture and recrimination in the air once more is down to what Pogba has had to say since returning from a World Cup-winning summer. But is the talking about to stop? Or is the midfielder simply paving the way for a move away from Old Trafford?
If Pogba wants to stay at Manchester United, he has some work to do to repair the relationship between himself and those fans who are starting to doubt his commitment.