When Manchester United’s in-house TV channel recapped Paul Pogba’s first spell at the club, the majority of the footage showed him preparing to come on as a substitute in various first-team games. There were also a couple of spectacular goals from his youth-team matches, of course, but the lack of senior action said it all about the Frenchman’s initial Old Trafford experience.
On Friday against Southampton, Pogba is finally set to make a first United start less than a fortnight on from his world-record £89.5m return to the club from Juventus. It has been a long time coming, but the 23-year-old will be hoping it proves worthy of the wait.
He left United in 2012 as a teenager scorned, later citing Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to overlook him for the home defeat to Blackburn Rovers on New Year’s Eve 2011 as the last straw. Seeing Rafael and Park Ji-Sung chosen ahead of him in midfield stuck in Pogba’s craw, and he needed little persuasion from agent Mino Raiola that a departure from Old Trafford was the best response.
His time at Juventus in the intervening period has seen him develop tremendously. He quickly forced his way into Antonio Conte’s first team in Turin, then made a big impact on the international scene after gaining a senior call-up from Didier Deschamps in March 2013. Just nine months after Ferguson had chased him out of Manchester, he was a Juve regular and a France international.