Manchester United fans supporting England suffered disappointment on Wednesday night when Gareth Southgate’s team were knocked out of the World Cup by Croatia.
That meant Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Ashley Young and Phil Jones were no longer in the running for a medal, with Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini also dealt the same blow the evening before.
That means Paul Pogba is the only remaining player that United fans have left to cheer on. Following the stick he’s received over the past two years, they would be delighted to see him return to Manchester as a world champion.
Ahead of the tournament, Graeme Souness, who makes a living out of finding reasons to criticise Pogba, claimed that he should be dropped from France’s starting team.
“Didier Deschamps struggles to find a system that gets the best out of Paul Pogba,” he said. “You can’t trust him as a central midfielder and, ultimately, that’s how Deschamps will see it. He could use Pogba as an impact substitute. If you’re chasing the game, he might do something, but he still doesn’t understand the midfield role properly.”
Souness has been left with egg on his face though, with Pogba going from strength to strength, and playing particularly well in France’s semi-final win over Belgium.
Kylian Mbappe has enjoyed excellent service from the United man throughout the tournament, with Pogba benefitting from playing alongside the energetic N’Golo Kante in midfield.
“They can criticise me, but they cannot criticise what I do on the pitch,” Pogba said. “I have a love of football in my heart. I always will. If I hear good things or bad things, I will keep fighting. We are winning. It’s always nice to win and to hear good things about the team, about yourself and everything. But I can improve and get better and better.”
United have signed Fred with the hope that adding a top midfielder to the mix will bring out the best in Pogba. Jose Mourinho has been working as a pundit throughout the World Cup and obviously has kept an eye on his star player.
Following France’s win over Belgium, Mourinho was impressed with the shift Pogba put in.
“It was a very good performance by Pogba,” Jose Mourinho said after the semi-final. “Pogba was mature, he played with great maturity. When he had to hold position and to keep control of the game he did.”
United were denied any silverware last season and watching Pogba lift the World Cup trophy won’t make up for that but it would still be a great sight. The only shame is that he will do so with a fairly standard haircut, given the fuss his style has courted in the past.
When Pogba showed up at the Etihad with blue hair, pundits and fans were left fuming. Then he popped up with two goals to overturn a 2-0 deficit before United went on to win 3-2. It’s almost as if his haircut has no impact on his performances, as much as middle-aged men may protest to the contrary.
But the midfielder is hungry for success. He’s already won two trophies in two seasons with United but there’s no question that the World Cup would top everything he’s achieved at club level.
France have won the competition once before but Pogba is eager to contribute to a second World Cup success for his country.
“Croatia do not have stars – they want one,” Pogba said this week. “They have done very well and they want the victory, like us. But I do not have a star. It’s on the shirt, but I did not win it. We want to go looking for it like all players. It will be a World Cup final, a great match, difficult.”
Winning is addictive and United fans will be cheering Pogba on, with the hope he can return to Old Trafford even more eager to bring further silverware to United.