Pogba promises handsome payoffs

Playing in an unfamiliar system with the national team at Euro 2016, Paul Pogba struggled to impose himself as effectively as he had in Italy with Juventus. It remains to be seen how Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will utilise his record sig
Playing in an unfamiliar system with the national team at Euro 2016, Paul Pogba struggled to impose himself as effectively as he had in Italy with Juventus. It remains to be seen how Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will utilise his record signing to get the best out of him.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Frenchman pledges to help United win Premier League to justify £89m price tag

LONDON • Paul Pogba has set his sights on winning the English Premier League, Champions League and Ballon d'Or after the Frenchman completed his world-record £89 million (S$156 million) move to Manchester United yesterday.

The figure smashes the £85 million Real Madrid paid Tottenham for Gareth Bale in 2013.

Former United midfielder Pogba, who left Old Trafford for Juventus in 2012 for just £800,000, immediately outlined his desire to repay the huge fee by helping the Premier League club win titles.

"I want to win the league for the first time with United, because I hadn't won the league when I left. The Champions League of course. And, personally, one of my dreams is to win the Ballon d'Or," he told MUTV yesterday.

Pogba, set to earn a reported £290,000 a week at United, was part of the France side who finished runners-up at Euro 2016.

He is also looking forward to working with Jose Mourinho and said: "I spoke with a lot of players when he was at (Real) Madrid - I spoke with (Alvaro) Morata, (Raphael) Varane - and they all told me he is a coach for me. He will make me improve a lot because he makes you work harder."

SETTING HIS SIGHTS HIGH

I want to win the league for the first time with United... Personally, one of my dreams is to win the Ballon d'Or.

PAUL POGBA, Manchester United's new signing, on his ambitions.

It will be interesting to see how Pogba can fit into Mourinho's team once the season kicks off.

The Frenchman's underwhelming Euro 2016 campaign has raised major questions about his tactical flexibility. When France coach Didier Deschamps changed formations midway through the tournament, Pogba struggled to adapt.

Deschamps had intended to play a 4-3-3 system to suit Pogba's talents. Pogba's best performances with Juventus came in that system, particularly in a midfield featuring Andrea Pirlo dictating play to give Arturo Vidal and Pogba licence to advance forward.

It was an unusual midfield trio, with the playmaker in the deepest role, and the other two players given more ball-winning responsibilities. But it suited Pogba perfectly - he could showcase his energy and tenacity when attempting to regain possession, plus his drive, trickery and long-range shooting.

Deschamps, however, switched to a 4-2-3-1 system midway through the tournament to accommodate Antoine Griezmann in his favoured central position, forcing Pogba into a deeper role alongside Blaise Matuidi. That compromised his style considerably: Neither he nor Matuidi are natural defensive midfielders, with both defined more by their attacking power than positional discipline.

In that role, Pogba looked uncomfortable, his limitations in possession exposed. He was unable to play penetrative passes from deep positions.

Those performances may concern Mourinho, who is appearing to favour a 4-2-3-1 formation with United this season. The Portuguese traditionally likes playing more disciplined midfielders in the two deep roles.

Pogba could also play as a No. 10, although that would be a relatively unfamiliar position for him. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the intelligent attacking midfielder recruited from Borussia Dortmund, would be more suited there.

The obvious solution would be a switch to 4-3-3. That would fit Pogba perfectly. Ander Herrera is another midfielder clearly suited to a shuttling role, and the same is probably true of Marouane Fellaini and Morgan Schneiderlin.

In attack, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has spent the last few years in a 4-3-3 for Paris Saint-Germain, and Anthony Martial and Memphis Depay are wide forwards rather than wide midfielders, likely to appreciate playing 15m higher up the pitch.

The disappointed parties would probably be Wayne Rooney, who still seems to favour a No. 10 role and has been informed he will not play deep in midfield under Mourinho. Another is Juan Mata, whose future was perilous anyway, having been sold by Mourinho at Chelsea.

The manager has generally favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation in his past two jobs, at Real Madrid and Chelsea. His Plan B, however, has been the 4-3-3, and that system makes most sense to get the world's most expensive footballer playing in his optimum position.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2016, with the headline 'Pogba promises handsome payoffs'. Print Edition | Subscribe