Jermaine Jenas exclusive: Paul Pogba is not worth £89m if Manchester United play him out of position

Jermaine Jenas exclusive: Paul Pogba is not worth £89m if Manchester United play him out of position

A question a lot people seemed to be asking when they watched the Manchester derby this weekend was, "Where's Pogba?"

United's £89m man, the most expensive player in Premier League history, was certainly not the most visible character as the Red Devils were handed a footballing lesson by Pep Guardiola's Man City. But I'm not sure this was necessarily Pogba's fault.

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Pogba is a creative player. That's the reason United shelled out almost £90m on him. He's not a defensive or deep-lying midfielder - because no matter how good you are in that role, you'll never be worth £90m.

In his best years at Juventus the Frenchman played in a three-man midfield, first alongside Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, and more recently alongside Sami Khedira and Claudio Marchisio. The things these players have in common is that they are all comfortable taking responsibility in the deeper areas of midfield, which meant Pogba was commonly given freedom to push forward as he pleased.

That's why I found it baffling that, in the derby, Jose Mourinho decided to employ Pogba as something akin to a holding player.

Pogba has no goals or assists in his United career so far and - while on its own this doesn't mean much because every player needs time to adapt - it does seem he is being asked to play in the wrong position.

I felt sorry for him against City, because I've played in games like that when you're in a two-man centre-midfield and you get completely overrun. You need to keep the discipline to hold your position in those situations, but instead Pogba and his partner Marouane Fellaini were trying to press and left chasing shadows.

If United were prepared to pay £90m for someone to marshall their midfield, then why not go and spend it on Luka Modric? He'd do the job far more effectively than Pogba and cost less money too. In fact, United's own Morgan Schneiderlin could have done the job Pogba was employed to do against City. The Frenchman was wasted there.

You wouldn't buy Gareth Bale and play him at left-back because he can do a job there, so why buy Pogba and weigh him down with defensive responsibilities?

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He needs to be freed up to hurt teams, because when he gets the ball at his feet in those attacking areas he is lethal. This is a player who scored about 10 goals from midfield for the last three seasons, not to mention his assists.

Pogba isn't a number 10 either, by the way. What's more, United don't need him to be a number 10 because they have the likes of Wayne Rooney, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata who can play that role.

Pogba needs to play in a three, with at least one defensive midfielder behind him - and again, United have players like Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick who can do that.

Paul Pogba n'a pas été convaincant contre City, Oli SCARFF / AFP
Paul Pogba n'a pas été convaincant contre City, Oli SCARFF / AFP

You'll note there isn't room for a number 10 in that formation, and that's the headache United have given themselves by buying Pogba.

I think they were right to sign him. The way that top end of the transfer market works, you get world-class players whenever you can - and making marquee signings like Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic has restored the glamour and the fear factor to the club.

But you don't buy a £90m player and put him on the bench, so United have to play to his strengths.

I don't think Mourinho knows his best XI yet, and possibly the derby came a bit too soon for his team, because it looked as though Guardiola has progressed a lot further in developing his side.

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As a contest, it wasn't even close; it was a battering, and the scoreline flattered United in the end. City's squad looked light years ahead of United's, and I think Mourinho has several decisions to make.

When Rooney and Zlatan play together, I don't think United have enough energy. You can't ask Zlatan to go chasing full-backs; his game is about holding the ball up and bringing others into play.

United are crying out for pace, and at some stage Mourinho needs to find a way to get Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford into the team.

There would still be scope for a number 10 in some games, against the lesser teams perhaps, but generally speaking a 4-3-3 is what Pogba and Zlatan need to flourish.

Mourinho and Guardiola might have been in Manchester for the same amount of time, but it seems clear that Jose has a bigger job on his hands. I think both sides will improve, but it's scary for City's rivals how quickly Guardiola seems to have got his players to respond to his ideas.



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