Which Pogba will show up?
Frenchman has no excuses in Manchester Derby
MAN UNITED v MAN CITY
(Tomorrow, 2.55am, Singtel TV Ch 109 - Eleven)
Paul Pogba has a personality problem in the sense that the British public has a problem with his personality.
The Brits are a strangely conservative bunch when it comes to their footballers.
Silly haircuts, glittery bling and inflated egos are indicative of a greedy game gone mad, the work of the devil, or this case, the Red Devils.
So Pogba was always going to find himself in a bit of a quandary at Manchester United.
He's young, gifted, black and brash and cost an obscene amount of money. He's the Raheem Sterling of 2016.
To overcompensate, Pogba not only had to be good, he had also to be superhero good, immediately and consistently.
Instead he was extraordinarily average.
Against Chelsea, he was downright awful and heads into a derby date with Manchester City tomorrow morning (Singapore time), knowing that another inept display will test the patience of his most ardent supporters.
Can the real Pogba please stand up? That is not the question. Could the real Pogba start running around a bit? That is the real and worrying question.
The usual cliches are currently being thrown around, the ones about foreign players requiring time to "settle", as if they are dairy cows looking for a tree to sleep under.
An acclimatisation process is always required, but it wasn't unfair to assume the process might be fast-tracked for a Champions League and Euro 2016 finalist who was returning to his old club.
Pogba wasn't a raw Portuguese-speaking kid from a Rio favela. He was one of the world's most accomplished midfielders going "home".
But the move isn't working, not at the moment at least. Pogba has turned into an imposter. The name's the same, but nothing else is.
Almost every stat corroborates what the eye can already see. The meandering, plodding Frenchman is off his game.
Comparing his first eight games for United with his first eight games for Juventus last season, the key percentages are down. His passing accuracy (from 86.7 per cent to 83.7 per cent) and his shooting accuracy (30.4 per cent to 22.7 per cent) both declined.
Against Chelsea, his wretched stats resembled a charge sheet in a courtroom.
Pogba failed to conjure any chances. In the Chelsea box, he touched the ball just once. He didn't manage a single shot on target.
Even the greatest suffer off-days, but this was something else.
Lost in the midfield maelstrom, spun around in the Blues' blitzkrieg, Pogba resembled a confused child in an unfamiliar crowd, desperately searching for a familiar, guiding hand, a paternal influence.
But none was forthcoming.
Pogba's astonishing lethargy as N'Golo Kante danced away and towards a fine solo goal epitomised the United man's ponderous season so far.
OUT OF SORTS
He was off the pace, out of sorts and in a mess seemingly of his own making.
But Pogba's tepid outings mirror those of his manager. The midfielder acts as a microcosm for his team. His role is poorly defined, unsuitable and inconsistent.
A psychological Jekyll and Hyde war is being waged inside Jose Mourinho's head as the United manager struggles between what he wants and what he believes the club want from him.
And Pogba is the collateral damage, the dazed and confused victim of his employer's internal conflict.
United have demonstrated a clear and concise playing strategy just once this season, when they threw a blanket across Anfield and suffocated Liverpool.
Mourinho collected the desired point, but he also suffered the wrath of neutrals and sceptical United fans alike for the dreadful anti-football.
And no one suffered more than Pogba, forced into a No. 10 role that restricted his movement and rarely allowed him to drop back to collect possession because United rarely had possession.
The 23-year-old was similarly constrained against Chelsea. His unwillingness to track back, create openings and carry out the minimal requirements of a competent midfielder cannot be excused, but the misuse of his talents must be exasperating.
Mourinho has signed a fast, muscular Panzer tank, but expects the safe, regimented runs of a school bus.
If necessary, Pogba must take matters into his own hands and what better tie than this Manchester Derby for starters.
In an inferior competition, this match would be of greater significance for United. For Mourinho, the result is important. For Pogba, the performance is vital.
The Frenchman cannot be blamed for his manager's shackles, but he can choose to shake them off.
Pep to Citizens: Keep the faith
HAMMING IT UP: Man City manager Pep Guardiola hugs Kevin de Bruyne during a light moment in training last week.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has told his players not to lose faith in the high-risk, high-reward style of football he has introduced at the Etihad Stadium despite the club's recent winless run, midfielder Kevin de Bruyne has said.
City started the season by winning their first 10 games in all competitions, but the momentum has stalled in recent weeks, and Sunday's 1-1 draw with Southampton marked their fifth straight game without a victory.
"He just told us to believe," de Bruyne told the Daily Mail. "He doesn't want us to have doubts in the way that we are playing.
"He wanted to make sure that we know the way we are playing now is the good way.
"That was the message. There are a lot of risks in how we play, we know that. I know this is not a very patient world but we are trying something very new."
De Bruyne, though, will not be involved in City's next game - a derby clash with Manchester United in the fourth round of the League Cup tomorrow morning (Singapore time), due to an ankle injury.
Pablo Zabaleta is also out, but Vincent Kompany, who made his first league start since April against Southampton, is fit.
Willy Caballero also looks set to come in for Claudio Bravo between the sticks, with Guardiola confirming that he will be rotating his squad for this match.
City have seen their lead at the top of the Premier League evaporate and are ahead of Arsenal and Liverpool only on goal difference.
They also trail Barcelona by five points in their Champions League group after three games.
Guardiola has made some big decisions since joining City in July, sending goalkeeper Joe Hart out on loan and dropping striker Sergio Aguero for key games.
However, Guardiola insisted yesterday that the Argentinian is still in his plans.
Said Guardiola: "I want to be clear again. I am so happy with Sergio and hopefully he can stay for a long time here. I want from deep in my heart he can stay here and play with us.
"He is a special player, he is a striker who scores millions of goals in his career. I know for strikers it depends on the moment, but we cannot forget how many goals he scores for us." - Reuters.
There are a lot of risks in how we play, we know that. I know this is not a very patient world but we are trying something very new.
— Man City’s Kevin de Bruyne on their playing style