Out-of-form Pogba under scrutiny at Man United

first_imgFILE- In this file photo dated Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba reacts during the English Premier League soccer match against Watford at Vicarage Road stadium in Watford, England. Pogba seems to be experiencing the toughest period of his second spell at Manchester United, Friday Feb. 16, 2018, after he was substituted in two of the last three games and dropped from the other. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, FILE)MANCHESTER, England — Buried in his bulky, hooded Manchester United jacket, Paul Pogba slumped in a seat in the dugout and stared into space with a blank look on his face.His team was 1-0 down to relegation-threatened Newcastle in the English Premier League and heading for a second loss in three games. United needed a savior from somewhere but that wasn’t going to be Pogba, its record signing and most recognizable player.ADVERTISEMENT Steam emission over Taal’s main crater ‘steady’ for past 24 hours View comments “Now, it’s my problem and Paul’s problem to deal with it and try to improve his performance level,” Mourinho said. “You don’t need to be a liar.”Pogba’s position in United’s lineup has been the subject of much debate in recent weeks, even more so since Alexis Sanchez joined the club last month in a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan to give Mourinho a very different type of attacking option.It is widely accepted that Pogba is at his best when he plays on the left of a midfield three, as he did to great effect during his time at Juventus. It gives him less defensively responsibility, compared to being in a midfield two, therefore allowing him to roam and make more of his trademark attacking surges.He started this season playing alongside Nemanja Matic in a central-midfield two, and produced impressive performances — particularly late in games when Marouane Fellaini came on as a substitute to give United extra protection in midfield.“Just let the horses run freely,” was Mourinho’s assessment after United scored three late goals on the break — one coming from Pogba — in a 4-0 win at Swansea in August in the Premier League.Pogba was out for two months from mid-September with a hamstring injury, then served a three-match ban after getting a red card against Arsenal on Dec. 2 on his fifth game back in the team.“He was out for a long, long time,” Mourinho said on Friday, “and in this moment, he is not playing well. Period. And the team needs him at a good level, and when he is not a good level the team is not as good as when he plays phenomenal.”Pogba’s most recent two starts have been the most concerning.Against Tottenham, where he again started in a central-midfield two, he was tactically indisciplined and lacked focus. He was regularly seen wandering around and vacating the central areas, leaving Matic swamped and exposed. It came as no surprise when he was substituted early, failing to finish a Premier League game he started for only the fourth time since rejoining United.Against Newcastle on Sunday, Pogba didn’t look fit — he was seen grimacing during the warmup — and was taken off by Mourinho soon after failing to react in the buildup to Newcastle’s winning goal, scored by Matt Ritchie. Mourinho said it was a tactical decision and Pogba wasn’t injured. Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Roger Federer, 36, becomes oldest number one Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard PLAY LIST 02:14Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard02:56NCRPO pledges to donate P3.5 million to victims of Taal eruption00:56Heavy rain brings some relief in Australia02:37Calm moments allow Taal folks some respite03:23Negosyo sa Tagaytay City, bagsak sa pag-aalboroto ng Bulkang Taal01:13Christian Standhardinger wins PBA Best Player award Sea turtle trapped in net freed in Legazpi City Pogba again appeared to be playing in a midfield two, though Mourinho insisted on Friday the Frenchman was playing on the left of a midfield three in that game, contrary to what pundits thought.For a player of his athleticism, mobility and ability — not to mention price tag — it seems strange that Pogba can perform only one specific role on the field.“If you are going to play in midfield, you should be able to play in a two or a three,” former United captain Roy Keane said about Pogba, in his role as a TV pundit.Mourinho said Pogba will play against Huddersfield for what could prove to be an intriguing test of character for a player in the spotlight.Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next “In the last couple of matches, he didn’t play well,” Mourinho said on Friday. “Period. End of story.”Except it won’t be. Not with Pogba in this kind of form.Mourinho was in spiky mood at his news conference ahead of United’s FA Cup fifth-round match against Huddersfield on Saturday, angry at having to respond to speculation — or “lies,” as he preferred to call it — that his relationship with Pogba had soured and that the pair do not communicate.Other reports said Pogba was irritated at having to play in a deeper position in midfield.All false, according to Mourinho.ADVERTISEMENT Phivolcs records 2 ‘discrete weak ash explosions’ at Taal Volcanocenter_img MOST READ LATEST STORIES It’s too early to present Duterte’s ‘legacy’ – Lacson Phivolcs records 2 ‘discrete weak ash explosions’ at Taal Volcano Lights inside SMX hall flicker as Duterte rants vs Ayala, Pangilinan anew GALLERY: Barangay Ginebra back as PBA Governors’ Cup kings That’s because Pogba had been substituted after 66 minutes. The previous match, he was dropped from the starting lineup. The match before that, against Tottenham at Wembley Stadium, he’d lasted only 62 minutes before being taken off soon after receiving stern words on the touchline by manager Jose Mourinho.The France midfielder is experiencing the toughest period of his second coming at United, with question marks over his role in the team and his on-field discipline.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSTim Cone, Ginebra set their sights on elusive All-Filipino crownSPORTSGinebra beats Meralco again to capture PBA Governors’ Cup titleSPORTSAfter winning title, time for LA Tenorio to give back to Batangas folkMoving for a then-world-record fee of 105 million euros (then $116 million) from Juventus in August 2016 has guaranteed that Pogba will never escape scrutiny during his time at Old Trafford.And the spotlight is on him more than ever at present. Nueva Ecija warehouse making fake cigarettes raided, 29 Chinese workers nabbed UK plans Brexit celebrations but warns businesses may sufferlast_img read more