Football Features

Paul Pogba’s Manchester derby performance a welcome distraction as Juventus loan rumours continue

By CJ Smith

Paul Pogba: Manchester Derby performance a welcome distraction

Published: 14:50, 14 December 2020 | Updated: 15:26, 5 December 2022

After a Manchester derby which featured a grand total of just four shots on target, it’s no surprise that it’s the events off the pitch making the headlines.

Man Utd and Man City played out drab 0-0 draw at Old Trafford on Saturday, with neither side seemingly willing or able to take the risks required to win the game, and both defences well and truly on top.

One of the brighter lights for the Red Devils was French midfielder Paul Pogba, who created two chances on the night — no Man Utd player laid on more opportunities for their teammates — while Kevin De Bruyne (three) was the only player on the pitch to exceed him.

Lining up on the left and invited to drift inside to combine with the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, Pogba completed two take-ons, while also contributing on the other side of the ball with three tackles, one interception and one clearance.

It certainly wasn’t the ‘vintage Pogba’ we’ve witnessed in Manchester derbies down the years, a la his two-goal performance in United’s 3-2 comeback win at the Etihad back in April 2018. That said, it was another promising display in his second consecutive Premier League start, following up from his fine showing against West Ham, in which he scored United’s equalising goal in a 3-1 away win in London.

It will come as a welcome distraction to off-the-field matters for Pogba, his manager and Man Utd fans, with agent Mino Raiola once again vocal recently about the 27-year-old midfielder’s future. As has often been the case over the past couple of years, Raiola suggested to Italian media that Pogba could be on his way out of Old Trafford.

“There’s no use ignoring it,” he told Tuttosport. “It’s better to speak honestly, look to the future and not waste time trying to blame people: Paul is unhappy at Manchester United, he can no longer express himself as he wants to or in the way that’s expected of him.

“He needs to change team, he needs a change of scene. He has a contract that expires in a year and a half’s time, in the summer of 2022, but I think the best solution would be for him to leave in the next transfer window.”

After the Manchester derby, Pogba took to social media to affirm his immediate loyalty to United, insisting he is “1000% involved”.

“I’ve always fought and will always fight for Manchester United, my teammates and the fans,” he wrote on Instagram.

“Bla bla is not important. The future is far, today is what matters and I am 1000% involved! Always strong together.. all has been clear between the club and myself and that will never change.

“When you don’t know what’s going on inside don’t talk.”

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Pogba rejoined Man Utd from Juventus back in 2016, and it’s his former club — where he won four Serie A titles — who have been most recently linked with a move for the 2018 World Cup winner.

Reports claim the Italian champions are lining up a loan move for Pogba in January in what would effectively be a ‘buy now, pay later’ deal.

Although unbeaten so far, Andrea Pirlo’s men are currently down in fourth place in the Serie A table after 11 games, four points adrift of early leaders AC Milan. Conceding a league-low nine goals, it is goalscoring and creativity proving to be the issue for Juventus, with the Turin-based club being outscored by each of the four teams above them.

Pogba managed 34 goals and registered 40 assists in 178 appearances during his time with the Old Lady and would undoubtedly add an X factor quality and unpredictability to the Juventus midfield should he return.