On August 5, Manchester United honored Paul Scholes with a testimonial match in celebration of his retirement after a distinguished 17 year career with the Red Devils. It was a fantastic night for Scholes who closed his career with a trademark strike from 25 yards to open the scoring. In the 75th minute, Scholes was subbed out of the match to a thunderous roar from the Old Trafford crowd. However, Sir Alex may have intended for the substitution to be a symbolic changing of the guard as a promising French youngster named Paul Pogba, who ran onto the pitch in his debut for Manchester United.
Instead of focusing on obtaining established stars like Wesley Sneijder or Samir Nasri, Sir Alex has decided to lean towards his prestigious youth academy to solve their midfield problems. Tom Cleverley has already dazzled in his first matches and other youngsters like Ravel Morrison and Ryan Tunnicliffe have been tipped to make their rise to senior football in the near future. For now, United may be looking at a tall, wiry 18 year old in Paul Pogba who has impressed enough to have already earned first-team consideration.
Hailing from the outskirts of Paris, Pogba made his switch to Manchester United from Le Havre, a French Ligue 2 squad at the age of 16 in 2009. The deal, which was contested by the French club as a form of “illegal poaching” was strongly refuted by Manchester United who had FIFA back them up by declaring no wrong-doing had been done. Once an official deal had been struck between the two sides, Pogba made an electrifying debut in a U18 match against Crewe Alexandria which confirmed what all the commotion was about.
Pogba continued to get better throughout the season with the U18 squad. He showed why United fought hard to get him as he showed an array of skills and talent which was complemented by his domineering physical presence in the midfield. Residing in the central midfield, many have predicted that Pogba’s physical presence would make him no more than a defensive, holding midfielder. However, those who have watched him play see that he offers way more talent than your average conservative midfielder. A noteworthy feature of the young Frenchman’s skill set is his tendency to produce the remarkable. Pogba has scored a series of lively goals from long-distance which have shown incredible power and curving ability.
Showing great ingenuity, excellent vision and surprisingly good ball control for someone of his stature, Pogba continued to impress as time passed and proved that he was quickly becoming a standout that couldn’t be ignored. His rising status as a promising footballer of tomorrow was showcased in the FA Youth Cup Semifinal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. With the pressure on him after teammate Ravel Morrison was suspended, Pogba produced a master class performance showing great physicality in winning balls in the air (he scored a goal on a header), and displaying remarkable ball control and dribbling for a player of his size. He dictated a large portion of United’s attack and helped his squad to victory on that day as well as in the final which lead to the United youngsters winning the FA Youth Cup.
As a result of his recent performances, the midfielder was considered by Sir Alex to be a candidate for senior football this season. He stated, “We’ve got Darren Fletcher to come back.” “Michael Carrick, who tends to develop more around November/December. And we’ve got a young boy Pogba who’s showing great promise for us. He came on in a couple of games in terms of progress with the youth team, we’re quite positive about him.” He also added, “I mean if we hold Pogba back, what’s going to happen? He’s going to leave. You know, in a couple of years time when his contract is going to finish. So we have to give him the opportunity to see how he can do in the first-team and he’s got great ability, plus he’s got the physique and athleticism.”
Paul Pogba has been often compared to fellow French midfielders like Patrick Vieira, Lassana Diarra, and Abou Diaby. Unlike Vieira and Diarra, Pogba has proven to be more of a box-to-box midfielder like Diaby in that he can play well on both sides of the pitch. Pogba’s versatility will work to his advantage as he shows excellent stamina and is adept at skills associated with well-rounded box-to-box midfiedlers in terms of passing, holding onto the ball, and tackling.
As the season progress, the footballing world will likely catch their first glimpses of Paul Pogba. United’s squad is already shockingly young as Sir Alex looks to set in the pieces that will allow Manchester United to continue to prosper even after the Scot finally retires. Like most other fans, I trust Sir Alex with the direction of the club which looks pretty bright in the days ahead with the likes of Tom Cleverley and Paul Pogba around amongst others.
Paul Pogba is a name you’re going to remember.