After a mixed season for Manchester United, Paul Pogba enjoyed a fantastic summer in the World Cup with France.
Playing in a deeper role than he would ideally like, the midfielder played a key part in his country’s victorious campaign.
Kylian Mbappe stole most of the headlines, with comparisons being made between the teenager and Pele, but he can be thankful for the help he received from Pogba, who played inch perfect, defence splitting balls in to his path time and again.
However, it’s not just his performances on the pitch that have been earning praise this week, but his behaviour off it too.
Footage has been released of the dressing room before kick-off ahead of two key games, with Pogba addressing his teammates.
| Pogba’s rousing dressing room speech before the World Cup Ro16 game against Argentina. “Messi or no Messi, we fight!”pic.twitter.com/CrbqDYwsTG: | Pogba’s rousing dressing room speech before the World Cup Ro16 game against Argentina. “Messi or no Messi, we fight!”…
— Manchester United (@RedUnitedFC) July 18, 2018
France’s reward for getting past the group stages was a meeting with Lionel Messi’s Argentina. With the players in their seats, Pogba stood and gave a passionate speech imploring his teammates to fight for the win.
“We want warriors on the pitch today,” he said. “I don’t want to go home tonight. Me, this evening, I’m not going home. Tomorrow, we’re staying at the hotel. We’re going to eat that f**king sauteed pasta again. I don’t give a sh*t, we’re not going home. We’re going to finish happy. I want us to have a party tonight.
“Today, we run ourselves to death out on the pitch. No one lets anyone else down, no one drops off. On the pitch, we’re all together. Good guys and warriors. Soldiers. We’re going to kill them today, these Argentines. Messi or no Messi, we don’t give a sh*t. We’re coming to win the f**king World Cup. We have to get through this to do that. Come on boys!”
What ensued was one of the best games of the tournament, with France taking the lead, before Argentina equalised then went ahead with goals either side of half-time.
Mbappe then scored twice in four minutes, with Sergio Aguero giving his country some hope with a 93rd minute goal but it wasn’t enough to see them through.
Pogba completed more passes in the final third than any of his teammates and recovered possession more than anyone on the field.
Their next game was against Uruguay and the Frenchman was again a controlling force. Only Benjamin Pavard made more passes, with Pogba again completing more in the final third than anyone else and recovering possession more than anyone in his team.
They were faced with rivals Belgium in the semi-finals and he put in a yet another composed performance.
He dominated the midfield with Marouane Fellaini, who kept Neymar in his back pocket in the previous round, having no chance against his United teammate.
In his role as a pundit, Jose Mourinho singled Pogba out for praise at the final whistle, hailing him for his controlled showing.
“It was a very good performance by Pogba,” Jose Mourinho said after the final whistle. “Pogba was mature, he played with great maturity. When he had to hold position and to keep control of the game he did.
In the final, Pogba came in to his own. With his impressive form unfairly being credited to him playing alongside N’Golo Kante, Pogba showed what he was capable of even when the Chelsea man was lagging.
Kante completed just eight passes and won just one tackle in the 55 minutes he was on the field. It was revealed afterwards that he was unwell, which went some way to explaining that.
Yet even in Kante’s absence, Pogba continued to hold his position well in midfield and went on to score the all-important third goal for his country.
With France 2-1 ahead, the next goal was vital in deciding the outcome, and Pogba claimed it. It was the first World Cup final goal from outside the area since 1982.
Having heard how he spoke to his teammates before the game, it is fitting that he scored the deciding goal. Footage has shown the players gathered in a circle, hanging off his every word as he delivered an incredibly emotive and inspiring team talk.
Paul Pogba’s speech before the World Cup final.
What a leader. ??? pic.twitter.com/X3UST3Ik7R
— Football Tweet (@Football__Tweet) July 18, 2018
“We all know where we are,” he said. “We all know what we want. We know the path we went through. In our hearts, in our eyes, I can see it, we are focused. We are only 90 minutes away from an amazing story. One game. I don’t know how many games we played in our careers, in our lives. But here, it is one game and it will change everything. It will change history.
“There are two teams and one cup. It is the same for them, they want it. We lost a final, we know. We still have it here, here and here.” Pogba pointed to his heart, stomach and mind.
“Today, we don’t let another team take what is ours,” he continued. “Today we look at each other and we don’t let another team take what is ours. Tonight we make our place in every French person’s memory. And their kids, their grandkids… Today, 90 minutes to make it into history. For ever, for ever guys. So now I am looking at you, I don’t want to shout. I want us to get on the field as warriors, leaders. And after I want to see tears, tears of joy not tears of sadness. Tears of joy on the field. OK?!”
Wow. It’s little wonder that France beat Croatia after the players were addressed like that before the game. It makes you wonder what United could achieve if he was given a more prominent role.
Pogba is United’s most talented player. He spent years in the academy learning the history of the club. He left and returned to United talking of his love for the club. He kisses the badge.
When he plays well, United play well. His brilliant performance at the Etihad last season, which saw his team turn a 2-0 deficit in to a 3-2 victory against champions Manchester City, was a taster of what he is capable of.
Over the past couple of seasons he has lacked the consistency that the fans have wanted from him but now, aged 25, with experience of winning nearly it all for club and country, as a world champion, is the time for him to wear the United captain’s armband.
Antonio Valencia has been loyal to the club, even ditching his agent a few years ago because he had no intention of going anywhere else, but he is timid and his grasp of English is still poor. You can’t imagine him standing up in front of his teammates and dragging them through to victory the way Pogba did with France this summer.
Mourinho needs to make plenty of changes if United are going to challenge Manchester City for the title this season. He should start with naming Pogba as his captain.