People love a conspiracy theory. According to some, man has never stepped foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong’s famous giant leap nothing but an impressive film-shoot in a Hollywood studio. Others believe that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and his fellow Beatles covered it up. Now we can add a new conspiracy to the list – Manchester United’s Paul Pogba is not injured.
That’s right. According to some United fans, Pogba is so desperate to leave the club that he’s faked an ankle injury that has kept him out of action for months. We eagerly await photos of him dancing with Elvis, or having a kick about with a team of little green men in Area 51, as proof of this bizarre claim.
Yet such conspiracies abound these days, and spread across social media like fire through a parched forest. It is difficult to know where they originate and, once they take hold, it’s nigh on impossible to convince those who wish to believe them that the less extreme scenario is also probably the more likely.
Plus, Pogba being Pogba, a man and a footballer who is simply not allowed to inhabit the world of calm, considered opinion, those who have already come to despise him for reasons best known to themselves are now fully immersed in this latest bout of outrage. Frothing at the keyboard, they dispense with rational thought and cling on to this latest Pogba ploy like parasites latching on to a host. Amidst much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the occasional pearl of wisdom can be deciphered, the most popular being that good old answer to everything – ‘Let him rot in the reserves.’
Yet take a step back, a few deep breaths and a sip of chamomile tea, and you might realise the absurdity of all this ‘the plot thickens’ nonsense. For, while it may be less fun to let facts get in the way of a fairytale, there are a number of reasons why it is extremely unlikely that Pogba is pulling a prologued sickie.
Firstly, there’s the small issue of his transfer fee. Well, actually, it’s rather a large issue, given that United are completely unwilling to sell one of their prized assets for anything less than what he’s worth. And Pogba, despite so many insisting otherwise, is worth a lot. Can anyone afford him? Probably not, especially in January. Does anyone what him? Possibly, though they were hardly clamouring for his signature over the summer and may think twice, as any sensible football club and business should, before splashing a load of cash on a player who hasn’t played a competitive game for months.
No doubt those stubbornly dying on their Pogba-hating hills will angrily claim that United should sell him anyway, at a loss if necessary, just to ‘get him out of the club.’ For Pogba, according to them, is a poison that threatens to derail all the good work Ole Gunnar Solskjær is doing with regards to team cohesion. Don’t mind me if I choose to give more credence to Pogba’s manager and teammates, who all consistently compliment him on his professionalism, character and popularity, than to a chap on Twitter with a photo of José Mourinho as his avatar and a name ending in ‘esque.’
If Pogba really is faking an injury, it’s a serious risk for a professional footballer to take, what with the European Championships looming large on the horizon, and France looking like legitimate favourites to add that trophy to the World Cup they won, with Pogba playing a key role in that success.
Of course, there are others whose love for Pogba is on a par with the conspiracy theorists’ hatred of him. Many of us, though, simply wish to see this immensely talented player return to a team, after two mesmerising performances against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, now showing real promise. What’s more, the fact that Scott McTominay and Fred have forged an impressive partnership shielding United’s defence should give a player like Pogba licence to roam and play with the kind of freedom he craves.
It’s okay to feel that Pogba has not lived up to his reputation since returning to United three years ago, as long as you throw in the caveat that he has been surrounded by mediocrity, in a generally unhappy team, during that time. It would surely be a shame to see him leave just when things are starting to look a little more promising and he could be the creative spark at the heart of this young squad.
It’s probably safe to expect this latest conspiracy to be debunked over the next few weeks, as Pogba recovers from his injury and returns to action. Those United fans who simply want the best for their club will hope his return will be another small step, if not a giant leap, in the right direction.
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