France’s dramatic ousting from the Euros at the hands of Switzerland certainly shocked a few. The 2018 World Cup winners were the favourites to lift the European title as well. As such, when Switzerland bettered them in a 3-3 tie that went to penalties, a lot of dynamics were rummaged around.
While the likes of Kylian Mbappe will return to PSG still bothered by the missed penalty kick, one man’s European performance may have altered the path of his future.
Paul Pogba was a force to be reckoned with during the tournament, best captured in his goal in that fated encounter against the Swiss. More importantly, though, he registered a vital assist in addition to being a reliable presence for the French national side.
Coach Didier Deschamps elected to field the Manchester United star largely as a partner to Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante in the midfield. The duo was dynamic and arguably could provide Ole Gunnar Solskjær with a model to go forward with at Old Trafford.
The Norwegian gaffer handled the resurgence of Pogba from injury last campaign in a bid to fill vital squad roles. The midfielder was unable to fit into the excellent midfield pivot of Fred and Scott McTominay nor oust the prolific Bruno Fernandes from the attacking midfield role.
As such, Solskjær often deployed him as a left forward to largely positive results.
However, now with Jadon Sancho’s arrival more or less imminent, it seems certain that the Frenchman will be sent back into a midfield role.
All this does work under the assumption that he will be convinced to stay. Much of the past two summers involved speculation about his potential departure. Former club Juventus as well as long-time admirers Real Madrid were floated as possible suitors. However, the pandemic clearly deflated that potential mega-deal and Zinedine Zidane’s exit from Los Blancos may have even severed vital ties to that destination.
As such, it would be of great merit for the higher-ups at Old Trafford to keep hold of Pogba. Based on his form towards the end of the last campaign as well as the performance he has been putting in the Euros this time around, there is a strong argument to be made as to why the 28-year-old should be retained by the Red Devils.
If that is the case, Solskjær must take a page from Deschamps’ book and partner him with an effective central defensive midfielder. The Kante paradigm clearly cannot be aped by the ageing feet of Nemanja Matic for the foreseeable future. As a result, any post-Sancho purchases this summer ought to involve the potential arrival of a specialist in that spot.
This possibility has also created the question of personnel choice at United. A Pogba-CDM pivot could act as the replacement for Fred-McTominay. If Solskjær has to eye multiple pieces of silverware, he must adopt the kind of dynamic starting lineup that Pep Guardiola floated for much of last season. In this set-up, having multiple successful players to choose from for the midfield positions will be pivotal.
At the same time, such retention does put further doubt on the future of Donny van de Beek. The Dutchman never really fit into his new club since last summer’s much-hyped transfer. If Pogba stays, what role could possibly do justice to his skillset within United’s existing tactical set-up?
All in all, it cannot be denied that Pogba brings much to United commercially as well as heaps of potential tactically. A new contract is a logical step moving forward. But is it a move that the Glazers will choose to fund?