Pogba's resurgence bodes well for France and Man United
French star's resurgence bodes well for France and Man United
WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS
(Paul Pogba 57, Dimitri Payet 65)
(Emil Forsberg 54)
The world may soon be catching a glimpse of Paul Pogba in all his glory.
Manchester United need not scour the fine print on the planet's most expensive player.
For both club and country, the midfielder is finally beginning to deliver on his hefty price tag.
Recapturing the form which saw him move for an eye-watering £89 million ($158m) this summer has been a lengthy process from which the benefits are now belatedly being reaped.
Goals may not be the making of Pogba, both Jose Mourinho and Didier Deschamps have said as much, but they certainly help justify the excessive fanfare surrounding him.
Striking for the second time in six days as France overcame Sweden in their World Cup qualifier yesterday morning (Singapore time), the 23-year-old's renaissance can only bode well for United's own bid plans to recreate former glories.
As Mourinho continues to endure an imperfect start to life at Old Trafford, Pogba's inability to meet the expectations set by a hype-induced transfer was arguably as damaging as the Portuguese's persistence with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney.
Signs of promise often appeared to be false dawns - his maiden EPL goal against Leicester City was followed by a four-game drought, while a wonder strike in Les Bleus' win over Holland saw him fail to seize the spotlight in a stalemate with Liverpool.
Consistency, however, seems to have finally found its way into Pogba's repertoire.
Within three minutes of Emil Forsberg's beguiling free-kick catching out both Hugo Lloris and the entire Stade de France, he had helped draw his country level.
The greatest pity is that he will not be able to continue to build on his impressive record for the Euro 2016 finalists beyond Tuesday's friendly encounter with the Ivory Coast.
SIGH OF RELIEF
Picking up a needless 90th-minute booking ruled him out for a meeting with Luxembourg in the next round of World Cup qualifiers in March. United will at least be able to breathe a sigh of relief in their plans for the EPL's season run-in.
In Dimitri Payet, however, Pogba discovered a kindred spirit as another player who has encountered a far-from-ideal opening to the new campaign, with West Ham.
Casting off the shackles of the travails with Slaven Bilic's side, the playmaker resembled the prospective Player of the Year candidate who dazzled the EPL last term than the husk who has since traipsed around the London Stadium in recent months.
A floated cross for both Pogba and Raphael Varane to meet, with the former winning the battle of wills, highlighted that Payet's problems lie far more with West Ham rather than they do within.
Pouncing to score the winning goal just eight minutes later will have undoubtedly added insult to injury for the long-suffering Hammers faithful amid a sea of French euphoria.
But Deschamps' belief that familiarity can triumph over form came home to roost in other areas, notably with the decision to choose Oliver Giroud over Kevin Gameiro.
The contrast between the talismans of Atletico Madrid and Arsenal could not be more striking - one continues to find himself on the goal trail, while the other cannot secure a starting role for his club in even the most irrelevant of games.
That even Arsene Wenger does not consider Giroud to be capable of leading the line for the Gunners should have sounded alarm bells in Deschamps' selection plan, especially with Gameiro's partnership with Atletico teammate Antoine Griezmann bearing fruit against Bulgaria last month.
If the France coach was hoping that the 30-year-old's stature would provide an upper hand against Sweden's statuesque defensive line, it proved to be a miscalculated gamble.
"He is not a scorer. he can score goals and has done so, but i don’t especially expect him to do that.
All the better that he did so today, but i am much more happy with his overall performance which followed on from what he did in holland. For Manchester, he is used in a different position in a different system. he gave us a lot of fluidity with the ball and was good at winning possession back.
When Paul is playing like that and has a good partnership with blaise Matuidi, it is important for the team. if he scores, all the better. i know he likes scoring, but it is not what i or the team expect from him."
- France coach Didier Deschamps (above), insisting there is an awful lot more to Paul Pogba's game
GROUP A RESULTS
- France 2 Sweden 1