I found out what cognitive dissonance means the other day and it BLEW my mind.
Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. When confronted with facts that contradict personal beliefs, ideals, and values, people will find a way to resolve the contradiction in order to reduce their discomfort.
OK, so I haven’t fully mastered how to apply this to real life but I’m gonna try.
Echoes of ‘unprofessional’ and ‘disrespectful’ bounce around the world of football Twitter and pundits alike when Pogba celebrates a goal with one of his dances. Angry football supporters, from his own club as well as their rivals, frothing at the mouth, call for Pogba to change his behaviour. They argue that he doesn’t take the game seriously because he gets his hair cut in a certain way or that he isn’t focused on football because he dances when he scores. That’s fair enough. You’re entitled to your opinion. I’m not mad.
But where were these accusations every time Peter Crouch decided to do the ‘robot dance’ that made it to the back page while making him somewhat of a national treasure? Where was the outrage then? Was it because it was for England? Was it because his awkwardness was endearing? Why did United fans enjoy Lee Sharpe’s dancing but criticise Pogba for celebrating goals as he likes? I dunno. Maybe the psyche shift that made you go from ‘aww’ to ‘arghh’ is cognitive dissonance. Meh. I’m still figuring it out.
‘Paul Pogba is arrogant’ is something I hear often, which confuses me. What leads people to believe this? To me, he just seems… happy. The only problematic videos I found of Paul were of him dancing. Well, not problematic to me, but maybe problematic to you, apparently.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like ‘arrogant’ is an adjective better suited to someone like Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Countless clips of him being a bit of a cocky twat are littered across the internet, but he is heralded as a man’s man, a legend, a self-proclaimed ‘Lion’. And we celebrated that in England. Even when the team that he played for, Manchester United, finished sixth, we swooned over his masculinity. Pause.
Mourinho called Pogba a virus? No way, Jose…
By the time this happened, I had begun to fall out of love with Manchester United. Jose was sucking the fun out of our beautiful game. Everyone complained about his out-dated football and his well renowned stubbornness. The tabloids labelled him problematic and toxic whilst tempting fate with talks of his three-year curse. But something changed over the summer. Pogba won the World Cup with France, and, somehow, he became the problem at United.
All of a sudden, the onus was on Pogba to lift his team and bring that World Cup winning mentality to Old Trafford. All of a sudden, Pogba was under pressure to perform and bring United out of Manchester City’s recently cast shadow. All of a sudden, Pogba became more accountable than his manager.
Even weirder than that, everyone began to behave like Pogba was unsuccessful. Like he was unproven. Like he hadn’t won 10 trophies with the clubs he’d played for, including four league titles on the bounce with Juventus, by the age of 25. Like he hadn’t just won the most coveted prize in world football and scored in the final. Like he wasn’t Paul Labile Pogba.
We all knew Jose was the reason that our football was the way it was. We knew about the buses and the bust ups. We knew about the famous three-year curse. We knew about the lack of fluidity and the suffocation of creativity.
We’ve watched Lionel Messi try to drag his Argentina side to glory throughout his whole career and fail, yet it seems like we expected Pogba to do more with less and in a shorter period of time.
When people were pressuring Pogba and interrogating him about his poor form and Manchester United’s inadequate performances, he finally broke and let us know what we already knew. He told us that he believes what we believe, but he also let us know that it was out of his hands because he is just a player. Facts. But he was crucified for it. And I don’t understand that at all.
Are we supposed to be angry at Pogba for defending himself, his reputation, wanting the best for the club and saying what every United fan was thinking? Fam. If you ask me, he’s a hero. If his career had died because of that, he’d have been a martyr in my eyes.
Okay. Let me give this cognitive dissonance thing one more try. Poor management leads to poor business. It leads to poor output, work rate, morale and poor productivity. This is as good as science. We know this. The team suffers if they’re not managed properly. People will not come in and work to their full potential in a toxic environment where nobody is allowed to be themselves or express themselves like they’re used to. This is basic human behaviour. So why isn’t this applied to Manchester United when we were fully aware of the conditions?
Even now that Jose’s left, some people are still blaming Pogba. Selective memory seems to lead to everyone forgetting that players like Martial, Shaw and Valencia were also marginalised under Jose. Pretty much every player performed below a level they were capable of and now, under new management, they are all flourishing. This is normal in a work environment and it is normal in pretty much any area of life. You remove the problem and everything gets better. We can see the reflection of what’s happening at Manchester United in all walks of life but some people still want to see Pogba as a problem. Even though we now seem to be flourishing. Meh. I’m still figuring it out.
Now that we’ve moved on, you man really need to let it go. Your ego doesn’t want to admit that you’re wrong, but you need to grow up. On the back of his four performances under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, where he was man of the match or at least in the running in every appearance, many people have softened their approach towards him. Many who felt they should be Team Jose out of loyalty to Sir Alex Ferguson’s instructions, that we must stand by the manager, are realising just how much Pogba was held back by Mourinho’s methods.
In Pogba we potentially have the strength and power of Yaya Toure, the vision of Xavi, the ball control and technique of Zidane, the passing range and accuracy of Scholes and, with a bit more maturity and the right management, the consistency, control of the game and cool we’ve seen from the likes of Pirlo. He’s basically a footballing hybrid with the potential to be the best midfielder in the world. Complete. He now has to show that on a consistent basis and the chances of him doing that, with Mourinho out of the picture, are better.
Now, let me get a bit more personal. Something that is evident to some and just gibberish to others. Racism.
There’s something about a young, rich, black male not following order and not being humble and quiet that rubs some folk the wrong way. We see it with the constant targeting of black footballers. Raheem Sterling recently spoke out about the issue, and was greeted with much respect and understanding from many, but his view was still rejected by some.
There’s a perspective that seems to view any extroverted behaviour and cockiness shown by these black boys as problematic, which is a perspective that isn’t really projected onto their white counterparts. If you’re black, humble and quiet, you’re a great lad, like N’Golo Kante. If you’re black, loud, confident and make any decisions people don’t agree with, you’re painted as a villain. Not just in that moment either, but forever.
It’s weird. These kids are having fun and living their dreams and we speak about them and write about them negatively all over the tabloids like they’re abusers, criminals or bad people. Even Gaza is afforded sympathy and still held as an England legend after all that he’s done. Ryan Giggs is a home-wrecker. Still loved. Pogba is a happy, bubbly, religious, young black man, who doesn’t go out drinking, whose love life isn’t printed all over the front and back pages, and he’s treated worse than the aforementioned. I don’t get it but, meh, I’m still figuring it out.
There will be people who want to discredit him, and will search for reasons to do that, so before I leave, let me address that. People talk about his price tag, as if all the statistics don’t show that United are a much worse team when Pogba isn’t present. Yet he’s still just one man and football is a team sport.
In regards to the Instagram post after Mourinho was sacked, I can see why some folk don’t believe the explanation and I fully understand people finding it unprofessional. He probably shouldn’t have done that. It was probably an immature knee-jerk reaction to finding out that the person who was leaving him out of the team wasn’t going to be around to leave him out of the team anymore. Speaking personally, I don’t care. I would’ve liked it.
The mantra that football fans like to believe and repeat is that no one person is bigger than the club. No player or manager is more important than Manchester United. Mourinho has gone and this is what our new manager has to say about Pogba’s feelings for the club.
That’s the Paul I know and have known since he was in the reserves and youth team here. He’s always been a happy boy with a big smile on his face. It’s a privilege and a responsibility playing for Manchester United and Paul loves playing for this club. He’s Manchester United boy through and through and knows what it means to play for Manchester United.
Regardless, some of you are still probably trying to justify your disdain for Pogba and I’ll probably have to readdress most of this but, meh. I’m still figuring it out.