Captain Marvel in Hong Kong: Paul Pogba must do ‘a lot better’ for Manchester United, says Bryan Robson
The French midfielder has underwhelmed since big-money return to Old Trafford, but former United skipper thinks he’s here to stay
Bryan Robson set the standard for midfielders at Manchester United and says Paul Pogba must step up a level next season.
Former academy product Pogba rejoined United in the summer of 2016 but has yet to consistently show the form he displayed in four title-winning seasons at Juventus that convinced United to shell out £89 million (US$124.9 million, HK$980.9 million) to bring him back.
“Really Paul hasn’t got to the level we know he can get to this season,” former United captain Robson told reporters at Sha Tin Racecourse during the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Riding High Together Festival.
“Hopefully he can finish off the season really well and enjoy his World Cup challenge with France.
“I think Paul had great first season, but this season he’s had a few injuries which have disrupted him, and a couple of suspensions.
“But I expect to see a lot better from Paul Pogba next season.”
The man nicknamed ‘Captain Marvel’ knows a thing or two about the level required at Old Trafford.
Robson, now 61, was at the heart of Alex Ferguson’s first trophy-winning United side, claiming the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1991 and the Premier League title in 1993 and 1994. He scored 74 goals in 345 appearances over 13 years, and is the longest serving captain in the club’s history.
Pogba had been earmarked to have a similarly dominant presence for Jose Mourinho but has gradually fallen out of favour with the United boss after returning from a two-month hamstring injury lay-off in November.
Mourinho has opted for 21-year-old academy product Scott McTominay over Pogba several times this season, with the Frenchman’s confidence evidently low, leading to speculation he may seek a move away.
“I think Paul is very happy at United,” said Robson, who participated in activities at Sha Tin on Friday by coaching mini-soccer sessions as an ambassador for the Jockey Club.
“He went to Juventus, he made it well known he wanted to come back to Manchester and play for United.
“I think that’s the media who are saying Paul is not happy there. I think Paul is very happy there otherwise he wouldn’t have come back to Manchester United because he knew exactly what he was coming back to.
“A lot of people are making stories of that. Paul isn’t playing at the best of what we know he can play. There’s a lot better to come from him. But he’s happy in Manchester.”
It is not just Pogba who has disappointed for United this season. The club are still second in the Premier League but are a distant 16 points behind Manchester City and were dumped out of the Champions League by sixth-placed La Liga side Sevilla.
“It’s been a little bit disappointing, especially the way United went out of the Champions League,” said Robson. “We didn’t do ourselves justice against Sevilla.
“But other than that we’re in the semi-finals of the FA Cup with a great opportunity to go on and win it.
“If it wasn’t for Man City who have been very, very good this season Manchester United would be sitting top of the league at the moment. They’re above Liverpool, they’re above Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea.
“It’s because Man City have played so well this season and dominated the Premier League that everybody involved with Manchester United is a little bit disappointed because of that.”
It is five years since United won the Premier League, but, having been part of the team that ended United’s 26-year wait for the title in 1993, Robson is not panicking.
“We’re not too far behind. Manchester City have set the standards, and those standards are very good,” he said.
“We have to try and win the FA Cup and finish runners-up in the league. If we do that then it’s been quite a good season. Then next season we need to challenge for the title again.
“Jose has got a lot of very good players within the squad, we need to improve and add a couple of top class players to the squad if we’re going to challenge Man City next season.”