It was April 10th, 2011 and I had finally gotten the chance to watch a full game with a young boy who had captured the hearts of all those fortunate to have watch him played. My MUTV subscription was paid for just to watch the F.A Youth Cup semi-final between Manchester United and Chelsea. It was a disappointing result as we lost the game 3-2 (we went on to beat them 4-0 in the 2nd leg), but the overall experience left me in wonder and awe. Paul Pogba stamped his class on that game and after the first 5 minutes it was clear to me that this boy would become world class.
His displays caught the eye of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson who would later promote the then 18 year old Frenchman to the first team. United at that time were crying out for a formidable midfield presence to fill the gaping hole that was left by the commanding ‘captain fantastic’ Roy Keane. Many at United, fans and club officials alike, were often left frustrated every time the transfer window closed and that need was still left unaddressed.
Paul’s promotion gave us hope and led some to believe he would have been given the opportunity to become a regular starter in midfield, especially with his namesake Paul Scholes at the tail end of his sparkling career. The manager however, didn’t think he was ready. The most successful club manager in the history of the game had decided this; who were we to complain? Even when he decided to field a right back in Rafael da Silva in midfield when Paul was available. United went on to beat Arsenal 2-0 in that F.A Cup 6th Round match. Pogba was too young, Ferguson said and his decision like so many other times, proved to be the correct one, right? Less than a year later, after growing increasingly frustrated at a lack of opportunity to play in the first team (he made 7 appearances all from the bench), Pogba sealed a move to Italian giants Juventus for a reported fee of approximately £900,000.
Some of us began to question Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision, but most trusted his decision. Paul quickly became a stand out player for Juventus and formed a formidable partnership in midfield with Arturo Vidal, later going on to win four Serie A titles as well as reaching the UEFA Champions League Finals where they lost to Barcelona. In the four years since Pogba left United, he had become a world class footballer and a global super star and I became jealous. Akin to a jealous ex-boyfriend who after four years realized how hot his ex-girlfriend became. I wanted Paul back at United, I wanted him back at any cost!
When Jose Mourinho arrived at United this summer it was immediately clear that we had a chance to re-sign Paul; something I thought impossible only a few months prior. Not only because of the potential fee and Juventus’ unwillingness to sell, but most importantly Paul’s desire to return. In one interview he lamented how much he loved the club but felt unappreciated, that victorious night against the Gunners being the straw that broke the camel’s back. To top it off, Real Madrid were also in for him and that usually ends in a player smiling at a press conference, white jersey in hand with Florentino Pérez looking on like a proud father, smug face and all. This time though, it was different. United would no longer be beaten to the signatures of top players and Madrid, well Madrid would no longer be bailed out by the Spanish government.
It became the worst kept secret in football, Paul Pogba would be transferred to Manchester United. A headline that dominated sports headlines and social media for months. Finally on August 8th, 2016 Manchester United football club released the following statement: