Manchester United fans may be a little surprised to hear that Mourinho appears to view world record signing Paul Pogba as a future centre half.
Speaking to Sky Sports Mourinho said: ‘He’s a top player and I think he could be a phenomenal central defender,’
‘With the quality of his pass, with his aerial game, with his agility in such a big body, for his defensive side of the game, coming from the back with the ball, he would be a phenomenal central defender, too. ‘The problem is not the position. The problem is not the tactical system. The problem is, in my opinion, somebody that comes from a different style of football and needs this time to be at his best level in football that is really difficult to play, especially for midfield players.’
In my opinion this is not the right position for Pogba at all. The Frenchman’s best attributes lie in his dynamic midfield play. He’s a central midfielder with good athleticism and a solid mix of defensive and offensive skills. It is clear that his future lies in central midfield, what Mourinho needs to do is firstly find the right midfield partner(s) for him and then help the Frenchman settle and adapt to a more competitive league to where he has competed previously.
In the Serie A, Pogba was playing for a team head and shoulders above the rest, he didn’t need to be as vigilant and disciplined as Mourinho will demand in the Premier League. Mourinho also has to consider that whilst discipline is important in a league where every game is competitive, if he doesn’t allow Pogba to be expressive and expansive with his football, then he’s unlikely to be satisfied at the club in the long term and playing this way will also limit the effectiveness of the player. When you pay £89million for someone, you need to make them the heartbeat of the team. Pogba is a young lad, a very talented player but maybe it’s time people took a step back and realised he isn’t yet world class and he cannot be expected to come in and make a huge difference immediately, let’s forget the price tag.
Mourinho must create the right environment for Pogba to flourish. He’s experimented with a few options, but I’d quite like to see a 4-3-3 with Carrick holding and Pogba and Herrera / Mata ahead. Whilst he his passing is good, he’s not a playmaker, so playing someone reliable on the ball like Carrick behind him would surely be beneficial – we saw that in the Europa League tie.
Pogba is not immune to criticism too. Whilst expectations may have been unrealistically high in his first few months in England, he could be playing better. An example is instead of trying to score from 40 yards five times a game, be intelligent. I can’t help but feel he feels the £89million price tag weighing heavy on his shoulders. The huge hype around his arrival has only increased the pressure on him and he now seems to feel that long range goals are required to justify his move.