Manchester United’s Paul Pogba believes his “mountain” transfer fee has led to unrealistic expectations.
Four years after swapping Old Trafford for Juventus, the 24-year-old returned in an eye-watering deal that could reach 110million euros (£92.35million).
Increased anticipation, pressure and scrutiny was only natural after becoming the world’s most expensive player, so too the way Pogba has struggled to fulfil such lofty expectations.
It has led to criticism that has clearly irked the France international, who laid bare that f rustration in his first press conference since returning to United.
“The people are looking at me,” he said. “They judge me for not scoring goals and stuff like this.
“If I was scoring goals, the people wouldn’t talk like this but it’s football.
“The transfer is something else, on the pitch is something else.
“I am doing a job. I am a midfield player and people think sometimes I’m an attacking player.
“When I give some assists to people and we don’t score it can happen, nobody talks about this – but it’s fine because they want me to score goals because of the mountain of the transfer.
“People are looking me saying ‘Pogba should score goals’, ‘Pogba should do this’ – I think you are putting me like as a striker, defender and midfielder.
“But I just have to do my job: my job is to make the game. Sometimes if I can make the team win, I will do it.
“But my job is to be a midfielder, make the game, do some assists and everything.
“If I was scoring the goals that hit the crossbar, I don’t think people would speak like this. But it’s football and we just enjoy it, we love it. It’s fine.”
Pogba has scored seven times for United this season and hit the woodwork on nine occasions.
The midfielder was philosophical about those near misses as he spoke in the bowels of the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium in Brussels, where he spoke openly about his form and United’s.
“I feel great, to be honest,” he said ahead of the Europa League quarter-final first leg against Anderlecht.
“We won two trophies. Obviously I want to do better, you can always do better.
“But I can say I am doing good, the team is doing good and we are looking forward as well to win the Europa League.
“We are trying to, we are going to fight for the top four.
“We can forget about the transfer fee. It’s in the past.
“I think about the pitch, I think about myself doing good on the pitch, doing good for the team and that’s it.”
There have certainly been signs of promise individually and collectively, but some shenanigans have rankled with onlookers.
Former United defender Rio Ferdinand took exception to Pogba’s social media post of him practicing a celebration with Jesse Lingard as the side struggled in the league.
“What is in the pitch is in the pitch and what’s outside the pitch is outside the pitch,” Pogba retorted on Wednesday.
“I love life, I am someone who likes to dance and do things like this.
“It doesn’t affect me on the pitch, to be honest. I can switch on and be focused on the pitch.
“Like he said, the time is different – before you wouldn’t do this and now you do it.
“An example, in America the basketball players listen to music, you’re in your world and they practice.
“For me, it’s just dancing and enjoying life with Jesse Lingard and it doesn’t affect me.
“When I’m on the pitch, I’m serious, I’m focused and I want to win.
“I took it as advice because it’s a big club and everything, but I spoke with him and he told what he meant.
“It’s a different generation, it’s nothing bad.”
Bad may, though, be an apt description of United’s campaign should they once more fall short of Champions League qualification.
“I came to Manchester United to do a big challenge,” he said. “The challenge is to go back to the basics.
“I think for Manchester United the basic thing – the thing that is normal for them, for a big club like Manchester United – is to play in the Champions League.
“We have the chance, we have everything to do it: we have the manager, the staff, the players.
“I think we have the mentality and we have to go back to the Champions League. That’s the objective, that’s the big one.”