On August 9, 2016, Manchester United completed a deal that was expected to transform them back into title regulars.
Paul Pogba – who had left United in 2012 – arrived in an £89.3million (€105m) deal from Juventus, a then-world record transfer fee.
Five years on, Pogba seems to be at something of a crossroads in not just his United career, but as a player altogether.
Like in 2016, Pogba heads into the 2021-22 season on the back of an impressive European Championship with France.
Unlike in 2016, Les Bleus failed to go deep in the competition, dropping out in the last 16 stage to Switzerland.
That game in June perhaps provided the perfect summary of Pogba the player. A global superstar in his own right, the 28-year-old has perhaps never hit the heights his talent suggested, or at least not on a consistent basis.
An exquisite long-range strike put France 3-1 up against Switzerland, yet it was Pogba who dawdled on the ball and was robbed of possession as Les Bleus contributed to their own downfall in Bucharest.
But just how has Pogba fared in the five years since he arrived back at Old Trafford, and what could come next?
HIS UNITED RECORD
Pogba has made 199 appearances in all competitions for United in his second spell at the club, with Marcus Rashford (252), David de Gea (216) and Anthony Martial (208) playing more games in that time.
Indeed, only De Gea and Rashford have played more minutes than Pogba’s 15,708. While he has struggled at times with niggling injuries, he has more often than not been consistently available throughout his time at Old Trafford, with De Gea and Rashford the two players to start more games than the former Juve star (174).
Pogba has played 134 times in the Premier League since 2016, helping United to 73 victories – a win percentage of 54.5 per cent.
He has missed 56 league games, with United’s win percentage dropping down to 50 per cent in those matches, underlying that he is perhaps more crucial than some of his critics would suggest.
It has to be said, however, that Bruno Fernandes’ arrival in 2020 did see Pogba take a back seat.
The Portugal playmaker has already netted more goals (40) in all competitions than Pogba (38), in 119 fewer appearances, though 21 of Fernandes’ goals have come from the penalty spot.
Rashford, with 39, is the only United player to record more assists than Pogba, who has teed up as many as he has scored, while the Frenchman’s 301 chances created is a team-high, 66 clear of second-placed Rashford.
Pogba ranks in the top three for dribbles attempted (624), with 393 of these being successful, displaying his ability to carry the ball through the thirds, and his total of 11,723 passes is way clear of Nemanja Matic in second (9,849).
PARIS FOR PAUL?
With just 12 months left on his contract, talks of a move away for the Frenchman at the end of his deal continue – Paris Saint-Germain his most likely destination, given their reported interest last year.
PSG already have a wealth of midfield options, though, including former team-mate Ander Herrera, Euro 2020 winner Marco Verratti and Leandro Paredes.
Pogba completed 1595 passes last term, yet the PSG trio, along with Idrissa Gueye, averaged out at 2126 successful attempts – perhaps aided by their domination on the ball in Ligue 1.
Despite this, only Paredes (322) completed more passes in the final third than the United midfielder’s 282, suggesting a different dimension Pogba could bring to Mauricio Pochettino’s midfield.
Pogba also won 255 duels, recovering possession 242 times when doing his defensive duties for Solskjaer. Idrissa Gueye, PSG’s best performer in this area, only managed 201 successful duels and 208 recoveries in two games more.
However, Verratti, who featured in 11 fewer games than Pogba, was victorious in 233 duels and made 174 recoveries – could the pair form Pochettino’s pivot next season?
While Pochettino now also has Georginio Wijnaldum, who made 262 recoveries albeit in six more games for Liverpool last year, to call upon, Pogba would add undoubted quality to the French giants in every midfield aspect.
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