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Premier League legend Thierry Henry questioned Paul Pogba’s consistency after Manchester United’s 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
The Frenchman was taken off after 58 minutes in the loss—which handed Manchester City the Premier League title—a week after he scored two quick-fire goals to inspire United to a memorable comeback against the Sky Blues.
Speaking as a pundit on Sky Sports (h/t MailOnline’s Alex Martin), Henry said of his compatriot:
“As soon as the game started, something was weird—the atmosphere of the stadium, the team—it’s so weird from what we saw from that team a week ago.
“The commitment, the desire, and I asked if Pogba can do that all the time, the way he played against City. The answer is nope.”
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Henry believes United boss Jose Mourinho had anticipated his side would struggle to replicate their performance at the Etihad Stadium and had taken steps to prevent that, but his efforts had little impact on Pogba and his team-mates:
“[Mourinho] was trying to calm the players down and he has experience. He saw that result way before we saw it. He had a feeling that he needed to speak to the players during the week.
“He told them be careful it is going to be different against West Brom and I go back to Pogba: why didn’t you and the rest of the team do what you did against City all season?”
The midfielder was far from the only Red Devils star who failed to perform on Sunday, but because of his £89 million price tag, he’s a natural lightning rod for criticism. Lasting less than an hour after playing a starring role in his previous outing has only increased the scrutiny.
Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News suggested Pogba’s substitution may have been brought on by the booking he received for handball in the first half, but football writer Tom McDermott gave a damning assessment of his showing:
Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst
Mourinho applauds Pogba as he comes off. Possible that the yellow card has dictated that decision more than Pogba’s performance. Martial’s name hasn’t been chanted this loudly for a while. #mufc
Tom McDermott @MrTomMcDermott
Pogba put out of his misery. Atrocious performance. Played well for 30 minutes last week but doesn’t look comfortable at all in the side/position. Ongoing problem for Mou and #MUFC.
It was likely a combination of both factors—a suspension could have put the 25-year-old at risk of missing United’s FA Cup semi-final on April 21, but it’s likely he’d have been given more time on the pitch had he been performing to the standards he’s capable of.
Sports broadcaster Pilib de Brun suggested it is the manager who should bear the brunt of the responsibility:
Pilib De Brún @Malachians
When Pogba, Martial, Sanchez, Lukaku, Mata etc can’t break down West Brom at home maybe there’s something wrong with your tactics.
Indeed, given it was far from just Pogba who struggled in the match, United’s lacklustre approach should be laid at the coach’s feet to an extent, but it’s the symptom of a larger problem at Old Trafford.
While the results have been improved from last year, with United still on course to finish second as opposed to sixth, there’s so much more they could be achieving under Mourinho if he got his tactics right more often.
The Special One isn’t the only one to blame, though, as many of the players—Pogba in particular—have struggled to show more than the occasional flash of the brilliance they possess, and they should take some responsibility for their own form.
The club will need to resolve the issues on both sides if they’re to win the Premier League title ahead of the likes of City next year, or they will fall short yet again.