When the PFA Team of the Year was announced on Thursday morning, the name that brought the most attention was Paul Pogba. Not for the first time in his life, everybody is talking about him, and what they have to say isn’t particularly flattering.
The rest of the team was filled with Manchester City and Liverpool players, which is not too surprising given they’re the teams who are miles ahead of everyone else this season, but plenty of questions have been asked over Pogba’s inclusion.
United fans have had a frustrating time of it, so it’s not a shock that some are annoyed to see one of their players’ given recognition, but they shouldn’t be.
The midfielder has completed the highest number of passes for United this season, covered the most distance, has scored the most goals, provided the most assists, created the most chances, completed the most dribbles, had the most shots and played the most through balls.
Pogba’s 22 goals and assists this season, a career high in the league for the Frenchman, have earned United 23 points. Only Eden Hazard, with 29, has been individually responsible for more points for his team.
However, football is about more than statistics, which is why it’s worth remembering that this is something that is voted for by his peers. It’s hard to image they’ve been trawling the internet for stats before making their choices, so it says something that fellow professional have deemed Pogba as worthy of filling one of the midfield spots.
Pogba has always faced an undeserved level of criticism, with people obsessing over his haircut or celebrations, and that was all too apparent last night ahead of the derby.
Graeme Souness had spoken about how players like Jesse Lingard needed senior players to look up to.
Former United player Gary Neville agreed with him and criticised Pogba for not being that player, all oblivious to the fact that Lingard is actually older than Pogba. Simple things like facts don’t matter though when there’s an opportunity to slate the Frenchman.
— PFA | Professional Footballers' Association (@PFA) April 25, 2019
There is also the suggestion of racism playing a part in the repeated targeting of Pogba, which is quickly batted away by many, insisting that the colour of his skin doesn’t play a role in the way that he is viewed. It’s impossible to prove either way, but there certainly seems to be a lot of people annoyed that a young black man will spend money the way he wants, cut his hair as his wishes and dance on social media. How dare he!
Yet all the arguments in his defence don’t change the fact that it has been an inconsistent campaign for Pogba. He’s had some very good games and made an important contribution to United’s season, but his lows don’t counterbalance the highs for some supporters, both at United and elsewhere.
Chelsea supporters appear to be the most aggrieved after Hazard was left out.
They are entitled to feel this way, given the way the Belgian has dragged their team through the season, but why they think Pogba and Hazard are interchangeable is confusing. The latter is a forward, not a midfielder, and has often been used in the false-nine position for Chelsea, so it’s no shock that his peers didn’t pick him for a spot in the midfield.
United supporters want Pogba to be a Bryan Robson, a player who can drag his team through anything, regardless of the quality of the players around him.
Pogba is not that player though. Who is?
Is it a wonder that he hasn’t been seen in his best light when playing alongside the likes of Nemanja Matic and Fred? At Juventus, he played alongside the likes of Pirlo and Vidal, and played a key role in winning the title every season he was there.
It hasn’t been an outstanding campaign for Pogba, but it has been his most productive to date, so the faux outrage over his inclusion in the team of the year is unnecessary.
But the obsession with Pogba will continue, with pundits and rival fans continuing to get themselves bent out of shape over anything linked to the Frenchman. And you can probably guess just how much Pogba cares about what they have to say about him!