Pogba must deliver on the pitch, not off it
World's most expensive player must deliver on pitch, not on Twitter
The madness of modern football was neatly encapsulated by another weird weekend in the life of Paul Pogba.
Both the Manchester United midfielder and his club made a big deal of him becoming the first footballer to have an official emoji.
To celebrate this historic occasion, his animated face was plastered across social media and on Old Trafford's electronic advertising boards yesterday morning (Singapore time).
The Frenchman even had another colourful haircut for the occasion, carving a yellow "PP" onto the side of his head.
In the end, they came to stand for "poor performance".
Pogba was awful against Liverpool. If he learnt anything from his abject showing in the 1-1 draw, it must be that genuine charisma is defined on the turf, not on Twitter.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has it. Pogba does not, not yet at least.
Two standout moments in the intense contest made that abundantly clear.
When Liverpool directed a cross towards Dejan Lovren, Pogba lost his man, his bearings, the flight of the ball and much of his dignity.
People want me to score, make a difference because they say that at that price, a player must score, provide assists. My role as a midfielder is not to score... defensive work, dictate play. I have to work for the team rather than think about myself.Paul Pogba defending his poor display against Liverpool
The handball was inevitable, the loss of face undeniable.
Not surprisingly, his emoji, along with the #Pogba, mostly disappeared from the advertising boards in the second half.
In the 84th minute, Pogba learnt the value of an authentic superstar, one earned with endeavour, rather than emojis.
Ibrahimovic nodded in the equaliser and then carried the crowd with him. He raised his arms in anger, in expectation, like an apoplectic conductor demanding more from his 75,000-strong orchestra.
The Swede hadn't played particularly well himself, but he got the response he wanted.
He was here as a kid. He knows how much this fixture means to the club, to the people in the area - and it's as if he did build himself up a little bit too much and got excited.Former United captain Gary Neville says Pogba might have got too excited about facing Liverpool
He had earned it, not in one average performance against Liverpool, but in games and seasons past.
Ibrahimovic lifted a stadium with one gesture and made the hairs on the back of the neck stand. It's a level of respect that money cannot buy, not even the £89 million (S$155m) that brought Pogba back to Old Trafford.
But the amiable Frenchman gives the impression he can navigate a shortcut to Ibrahimovic's superstardom, as if a transfer fee and some funny haircuts are enough to earn the adulation of the masses.
But these frilly accoutrements are no more impactful than Ibrahimovic's ponytail or Eric Cantona's upturned collars. They might add a splash of colour to the legend, but they cannot build one.
Pogba fell way short where it really mattered.
He spurned an early opportunity, missing the target completely when he had to test Simon Mignolet at the very least.
Apart from the clumsy handball, he struggled to win any of his aerial challenges at set-pieces - despite being 1.91m tall.
In the TV studio, Rio Ferdinand watched on in disbelief as United's world-record signing couldn't "face up" properly, the simplest prerequisite of a Sunday morning park footballer.
Pogba was also lucky not be booked for throwing Jordan Henderson to the floor with a choke-slam borrowed from a wrestling ring.
He completed only 71 per cent of his passes and struggled to address Juergen Klopp's midfield diamond, which suffocated Michael Carrick and isolated him.
In other words, the 23-year-old was unable to improvise a solution to Liverpool's initial tactical superiority. He was left shackled with no escape plan.
Jose Mourinho's second-half decision to pump balls direct to Ibrahimovic and substitute Marouane Fellaini further negated the Frenchman's influence.
So the "bad day at the office" defence of Pogba's lethargic performance is a troubling one, considering he's already a Serie A title winner and a Champions League and Euro 2016 finalist.
He was bought for the big occasions.
Beating the likes of Middlesbrough and West Ham is bread and butter stuff. United broke the bank to ensure the annual humiliation of those meddling Merseysiders.
Ibrahimovic has always delivered in such contests and did so again at Old Trafford. He doesn't need emojis and nor does Pogba.The 140 characters on Twitter will never matter as much as the one on the pitch.