Paul Pogba is not world class “in any shape or form”, says former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen, with the French midfielder told he needs to work harder and deliver on expectation before he can be considered elite.
Plenty would have the World Cup winner in that category when performing at the peak of his powers, however, showings of such quality have been in short supply throughout a second spell at Old Trafford.
Pogba remains United’s £89 million ($115m) club-record signing, and a man who continues to see regular game, but consistency has been an issue amid regular questioning of his form and future.
Meulensteen believes such criticism is deserved, with the 27-year-old, who returned to English football from Juventus, yet to fulfil his undoubted potential and cement a standing alongside those at the very top of the global game.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s former right-hand man told Stadium Astro of Pogba: “You can have all the talent in the world but it’s about hard work, and it’s hard work that brings that quality to the surface.
“For me, he hasn’t worked hard enough. I can see it all the time, it’s too slow, it’s laboured and there is no urgency about it and other teams can capitalise on it.
“He is a very talented player. Everyone keeps talking about him – he’s world class, he’s world class.
“I would never use world class so easily because I know players past and present and they deserve the accolade of being world class. In my opinion, Paul doesn’t deserve that in any shape or form because I don’t think he’s lived up to expectations.
“I don’t think we expect too much of him because of the player he has been and the trophies he has won.
“We need to expect even more from him, but that only comes from working hard. That then rubs off on other players. Not working hard does as well because they start to question those performances.”
“He played in a very experienced, well set up team [at Juventus], with a lot of strong personalities and leaders,” added Meulensteen.
“That’s one thing United are lacking, leadership. He should be one of them but he isn’t, he isn’t a natural leader.
“You need to get him back where he can do most of the damage, which is between the lines and in the pockets. At the moment he is too often in areas where he gets crowded out.
“One area where he has been poor is that he gets the ball nicked off him too often.
“It’s a constant puzzle. You need to win games, United have had their worst start in the Premier League at home, and I don’t think Ole knows what his best 11 is.”
Solskjaer faces another selection headache on the back of a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal which saw Pogba fail to impress in a wide attacking role and concede the penalty which allowed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to snatch all three points for the Gunners.