After three consecutive Premier League wins this season under Jose Mourinho, Manchester United have been brought back to earth slightly over the last week.
A defeat against cross-town rivals City last Saturday was compounded by losing against Feyenoord in the Europa League on Thursday night.
Although a couple of negative results are manageable, scapegoats are always sought out after defeats.
In the case of the latest United losses, and probably for future defeats also, Paul Pogba has to harbour the lion’s share of the responsibility.
The all-action France international midfielder rejoined the Red Devils for a world-record transfer fee earlier this summer and as such more is expected of him than most of the other United players.
The side’s midfield was outrun and outplayed by City last Saturday, while Pogba featured in the Netherlands on Thursday night and had a limited impact on proceedings in the 1-0 defeat.
Mourinho not worried
Despite Pogba not setting the world alight since returning to English shores, this is not a cause for alarm according to Jose Mourinho.
The Portuguese trainer has been vocal in the press stating that it is only a matter of time before the midfielder comes good and that the expectation of being the world’s most-expensive player needed to be kicked to one side for the Frenchman to thrive.
“The world-record player is always a question that will be open until somebody breaks the record,” Mourinho said, according to The Guardian.
“There are clubs that paid 20, 30, 40 million, which is a bigger deal than United paid for Paul because you make a relation between what you pay and the club revenue and you realise that other clubs paying 20, 30, 40 is a much bigger thing than what United did.
“I just want Paul to forget that and to play his football.
“I know he is a very good guy with a lot of ambition so the form will come naturally and will come with the team improving. The team improves, he will improve – no problem.”
Pogba’s role and ideal midfield partner
Usually with central midfielders, they are categorised as one of two things: a holding player or an attacking threat.
Pogba’s array of abilities and physical qualities means that he can fulfil both roles but as yet there does not seem to be a clear determination over which he has been signed to play.
If United want a dominant defensive midfielder that can win the ball back, break up the opposition’s possession and dictate play from deep, the Frenchman can abide this wish.
If they want a player in the centre of the park to make barnstorming runs past the strikers, shoot from distance and constantly be in the opposition’s half, Pogba is your man.
What role the world’s most-expensive star plays is dictated by who is fielded alongside him.
Marouane Fellaini has been the partner of choice so far in the Premier League, but neither he nor the Frenchman appear to have been given pre-determined roles or responsibilities.
For this duo to work, the giant Belgian should be instructed to sit and hold at all times, while Pogba needs to be unleashed.
Ander Herrera provides the opposite option, with the little Spaniard’s natural instinct to get forward, create and be progressive.
If the former Athletic Bilbao man is to partner Pogba in the boiler room, perhaps detailing the former Juventus star to anchor the team makes more sense.