How Will Paul Pogba Impact Manchester United?
There is a great level of pressure on any player who makes a move to one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
However, that pressure may have reached new heights for Paul Pogba, who is set to sign a world record $116 million deal with Manchester United.
The fourth signing of the Jose Mourinho era is the biggest, but now the manager must figure out how to fit the midfielder into his team in order to reach the top of the Premier League table.
Pogba's play will be criticized more heavily than before as he returns to the Premier League. He must improve the players around him, given how much of Manchester United's play will now run through him. Regardless, if Manchester United finds itself in a battle for the title and in a Champions League place in April, then flexing their financial muscle will have been worth it.
Paul Pogba arrives at Carrington for medical. #MUFC pic.twitter.com/sVVjPhEIF5
— indykaila News (@indykaila) August 8, 2016
What Pogba Brings
Pogba has been one of the most wanted players in the world for the last few transfer windows, so thoughts on his potential are clear. Creativity may be the first word that comes to mind when one watches any highlight package of the midfielder.
His biggest strength is his engine. Pogba never shows a lack of energy and played the full match 87% of the time last year for Juventus. Pogba's level of fitness is evident when the ball is at his feet because he loves to dribble and take on opponents.
On the surface, Pogba fits well into Mourinho's counter-attacking style.
WhoScored.com lists no weaknesses for Pogba, but he is not without his critics. Despite France finishing second in the European Championships, some say Pogba never fully imposed his will on the opponents.
Pogba was employed in a defensive role for much of the tournament that limited his ability to show off his engine. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger defended Pogba's performance over the summer by saying he is still growing as a player.
Time will tell where Mourinho lines up Pogba. The manager's preferred lineup choices are 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Given that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to be the focal point of the Manchester United attack, the latter formation fits well.
Regardless, Pogba will need to have license to move forward and not get stuck in a role similar to his position with France in the summer.
Mourinho can get creative, as his summer signings of Ibrahimovic, Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Eric Bailly have opened up many options. Bailly and Ibrahimovic will make up part of a strong spine for United.
Mkhitaryan and Pogba are more versatile players, although Mkhitaryan should fill one of the outside midfielder spots. The Armenian did make two appearances at central attacking midfielder for Borussia Dortmund last season.
The biggest question may be how Pogba interacts with Wayne Rooney. Rooney was employed behind Ibrahimovic on Sunday and was nailed with harsh criticism for his performance. Rooney is a legend at Manchester United, and that status is keeping him on the pitch.
It is also pushing Marcus Rashford to the bench. Former Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert thinks Rashford was carried last season, but moving him to the bench could stunt his growth and maturity. It will be interesting to see if Rooney will gel with Pogba as Rashford waits for his chance on the bench. Right now, Rashford gives Manchester United even more attacking options, and he should not fear for his place in the side, especially if he forms a relationship with the record-breaking signee.
Impact on Others
Gary Neville believes that the Pogba signing gives United the personality the team has been missing for a few years. That personality alludes to a bit of arrogance as Pogba and Ibrahimovic are two of the most confident players in world football. That confidence should rub off on their Manchester United teammates. Pogba has already helped build the confidence of Anthony Martial as he called Martial mature last summer before his breakout year in Manchester.
Pogba and Ibrahimovic both have huge personalities, but the striker seems eager to welcome Pogba: the prospect of his arrival prompted Ibrahimovic to say that Manchester United has "something big going on." Ibrahimovic's role is clear. He will stay close to the box and the team will need to produce chances for him.
Pogba does not need a lot of space to make a good pass, and Ibrahimovic can still create brilliance, so Manchester United has a chance to make a lot of quality opportunities out of nothing with these two on the pitch.
United fans always have high expectations, and the arrival of Mourinho and Ibrahimovic only solidified these presumptions. Many of those fans also expect Manchester United to bring in talent like Pogba routinely. The signing of Pogba has Manchester United in the top three to win the Premier League, and the safe bet for many.
Expect the ball to be at Pogba's feet as much as possible. He scored eight goals for Juventus last season, but his value with Manchester United will be graded in setting up scoring chances. His 12 assists from last year could see a surge if given the freedom to roam from box to box.
Ultimately, if he can stay healthy and United are holding hardware at the end of the season, the signing will be viewed as a success despite the price.