And Paul Pogba quickly adjusted his stride. A gushing wind seemed to stop the ball in mid-air and flummox all. Quickest to react, he took two steps forward. And tamed the dropping ball on his right boot. A curve inside, one man down. A touch to mesmerize, two men down. Then a pause to send the third man sprawling. Measure - space created. Now, load and shoot. Magic. The ball flew with care and conviction written from the custom-made PP6 boots. As if postage-stamped, it embraced the nylon of the Fulham net. Goalkeeper down.
And for the second time in the space of a week, Pogba elevated Manchester United. Destination - top of the Premier League. First beyond Liverpool. Then beyond Manchester City. In Paul Labile Pogba's world, it is all so simple. Right foot sweet volley, left foot power caress. He wants to and he does it. That should be it every week right? World Cup winner. Golden Boy. Golden hair too. Tall, strong, quick, powerful. He can run with the ball; a wonderful first touch; can thread the eye of any needle with a pass. Such is the ferocity of his shooting, there is a hashtag designed just for that purpose. Pogboom they call it.
There is something special about Pogba. He moves with the grace of a ball room dancer. Possesses the panache of a soldier with a bayonet. The IQ to ace intricacies and execute nuances. If one was to look at a player and list the essentials, Pogba's repertoire would be the full package.
Paul Pogba - complicated unnecessarily
In theory, Pogba should be dominating games. But in his case, the simple is always garnished with avoidable complications. On the pitch and quite frustratingly, off it too. On one night, Pogba gets outplayed by McArthy and McArthur. As if someone thrust a jazz artist in a rock concert. On another night, he gallops through the heart of Etihad. Like a vocalist bellowing chartbusters one after another. Pogba always keeps you on tenterhooks. Not always in a good way.
It is clear to see Pogba has a gift. The outlandish Hollywood assist to Marcus Rashford at Wembley. Outmuscling Moussa Dembele to set up Alexis Sanchez in an FA Cup semifinal. Dribbling past Chelsea players in the dying embers of a game already won to set up Dan James on debut. Eating up ground at Arsenal in full throttle to set up Anthony Martial. Leaping clear in Leipzig to throw a cat among the pigeons. He makes all of this look strikingly simple.
It is also clear to see he has too many gifts. A problem of plenty to call upon. Consequently, a concoction of complications. An unnecessary dribble to lose possession. A moment's hesitation to lose your runner. A characteristic lunge to concede a penalty. An idiosyncratic flourish in the wrong box to gift a goal.
Pogba has been divisive. At least publicly. Perhaps his kryptonite is this very brilliance. On his day he can be jaw-slacking good. And his spectacular is so eye catching, that one almost expects him to do everything. There's a general problem of expectation when it comes to him.
Mino Raiola - boon or bane for Pogba?
However, his complications on the field are not nearly as damaging, when compared to the ones emanating from his entourage. There have been numerous hints. Oftentimes, United have been sweating over a Pogba departure. But none more degrading than his agent's latest comments. “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. I can say that it’s over for Paul Pogba at Manchester United."
Mino Raiola held nothing back. And when? Ahead of a virtual knockout game in the Champions League. It should have been simple. Football preparation ahead of a crucial football match. But Manchester United suddenly found themselves wrestling yet another Pogba situation. Why should there be so much complication? Transfers are not a novel phenomenon. It is a simple occurrence in the world of football. Why should a club of Manchester United's stature be held to ransom by an agent-player duo?
It is simply unacceptable to have an agent so frequently disrupt a football club. And so close to a massive continental game. There are two ways of looking at the inflammatory comments. Either Pogba and Raiola are in cohorts. Or Raiola spoke completely out of turn. But both lead to the same furious conclusion.
Paul Pogba - simple man, complicated entourage
Pogba is a 27-year-old man who left home at 16. He has been exposed to levels of pressure and expectation beyond fathomable realms. All this has made him extremely mature. He is also a very good communicator himself. His football, demeanor and hair colours are enough evidence of his expressive nature. So, it is very difficult to believe that Pogba cannot speak for himself. Thusly, if he does disagree with his agent, there would have been an immediate statement to his combined 50 million followers on social media. Let one not lose sight of the overarching truth. Raiola is employed by Pogba. Not the other way round.
This is not to say Pogba would have been aware of the exact content. Neither is it to say Pogba would control the timing. But a very simple narrative - this should not happen. A simple footballing matter complicated by non-footballing people. And thus, the sour taste in public mouths can be understood.
The footballing side of Pogba probably shadows the nonsense otherwise. Perhaps even Pogba the person is nice enough. There is a common belief that Pogba is a loved and respected figure in the dressing room. It is also for all to see that Pogba is a simple man. He is a family man through and through. A thorough professional too. There are plenty of journalists who can vouch for Pogba's niceness. There have been evidences of him agreeing to eleventh hour interactions when his teammates have backed out.
Paul Pogba - isolated from start?
The sound around Pogba is not always his doing. The clap has a second palm. He he has often faced unnecessary media backlash from former players. Not always for lack of performance.
In fact, his numbers at Manchester United paint an elite picture. Pogba has expected goals and assists of 0.63 from the number 10 position. From defensive midfield, the number is 0.46 - once every two games. He also progresses the ball into the final third and into the opposition area 11 times.
But his performances on the pitch do not absolve the complications he brings off it. He excites and thrills. But Pogba equally disappoints and frustrates. It was never really meant to be this way with him. At 16, he arrived in Manchester with a simple vision - stay forever and win all.
Today, he stands on the brink of a second unceremonious exit. All this sandwiched by the world's then most expensive transfer. The return was meant to be happy. There was such great fanfare and so much expectation. Even a specially designed hashtag - #Pogback! But in the end, perhaps it was all too much. Perhaps he is the right player at a wrong time. A lot of promise. Flashes of glorious brilliance. Patches of consistency. But eventually, everything too isolated to leave a lasting impact.
If one is to be a little poetic in retrospect; a little symbolic. One must take a close look at Pogba's unveiling video. A lot of pomp. A lot of glitter. Great theatre and grandeur. A special track rapped by Stormzy. But never in the video are Pogba and Stormzy in the same room. Perhaps we never saw it. That even on his best days, he was always a little more isolated than we realized.
Maybe it was never meant to be.