Neil Humphreys: Release the beast of Pogba
Red Devils superstar Pogba must be given free role to roam
Study Paul Pogba. Watch his masterclass against Stoke City.
Put together the highlights and play them on a loop at an exhibition.
This was an art class.
This was a midfielder who plays smiling football.
He smiles. We smile. Everyone goes home happy.
But the smile could still be wider. The Frenchman's freedom could be greater.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho should ignore his defensive instincts and give the public what they want.
Give Pogba what he wants.
Liberate him. Push him farther up the pitch and let him roam where he pleases.
He orchestrated Manchester United's 3-0 stroll against Stoke yesterday morning (Singapore time), but played with the carefree joy of a toddler discovering a football for the first time.
Pogba is a special breed, a rare combination of beauty and beast, but there's a distinct feeling that he's not quite being allowed to fully display either.
He had 96 touches against Stoke. He picked up two sumptuous assists, and they weren't even his best passes of the night.
That's hardly surprising considering there were 77 to choose from.
They came thick and fast, short and long, inside, outside, thumped, chipped and flicked.
Pogba appeared to be having a competition with himself to pull off every pass in the textbook and a few of his own.
A raking curler with his left foot from inside his own half and a sweeping right-footed effort to release Anthony Martial were the highlights, timely reminders that Pogba's distribution is faultless.
He now has nine assists - level with Kevin de Bruyne and Leroy Sane - but he's played only 13 games.
The 24-year-old has missed 15 games in all competitions, slipping beneath the media's radar as the hysteria focused on de Bruyne's Manchester City.
But Pogba remains undefeated. A quirky statistic confirms his omnipotence.
He's unbeaten in his last 35 English Premier League matches. Mourinho speaks of two Uniteds with some justification.
Without Pogba, United lose games. With Pogba, they don't.
To Mourinho's immense frustration, Pogba has faced only one top-six side this season.
The opponents were Arsenal. The 3-1 victory was easy, a win built in the image of United's force of nature.
Pogba plays as if he can't quite believe he's that good, that talented, and someone's willing to pay him a fortune to prove it.
Against Stoke, he danced through central midfield and pulled off one outrageous pass after another, as if he was amusing himself. It's a wonder he doesn't chuckle between passages of play.
In this regard, he stands in stark contrast to his manager.
Mourinho's regimented, functional formula wins trophies, but it doesn't play entirely to Pogba's strengths.
The cheeky kid at Juventus hasn't fully morphed into a man mountain at United because he must still conform to a degree.
Pogba's overriding responsibility is to sit beside Nemanja Matic and hold the line between Mourinho's favoured back four and front three.
It was Stoke's porous midfield that allowed Pogba to skip centre-circle duties and probe his opponents, like a curious bully poking a docile animal with a stick.
Admiring the 24-year-old in full flight inevitably leads to further questions. Shouldn't he be even farther forward? Shouldn't he be closer to the box?
Just imagine the carnage Pogba might cause if he were at Manchester City.
In a poetic twist, his outstanding display came before Mourinho admitted that Henrikh Mkhitaryan's days were numbered.
The mercurial Armenian's career path has taken a familiar turn under Mourinho.
Electrifying at Borussia Dortmund, underwhelming at United, Mkhitaryan has started just two of the last 16 games.
In his final season at Dortmund, he featured in 52 games, scored 23 goals and weighed in with a remarkable 25 assists.
Perhaps he struggled with the transition to English football.
But Mohamed Salah and de Bruyne made the grade, two other intuitive midfielders who were considered incapable of meeting Mourinho's exacting standards.
Of course, Pogba isn't going anywhere. Mourinho adores him. But he doesn't entirely trust him. He doesn't entirely trust anyone.
The United manager's obsessive attention to defensive detail still leaves Pogba in a bit of a tactical straitjacket.
But this kid can't be caged. He deserves the freedom of Old Trafford.
Martial, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford must continue to plot a tricky course around Mourinho's conservatism, but not Pogba. Anyone but Pogba.
He's the closest thing to an archetypal United footballer of yesterday.
Take off the reins and he'll be the greatest United footballer of tomorrow.