Paul Pogba has jokingly declared that Manchester United should bench him if it means they perform better.
It has been a turbulent season for Pogba, who missed portions of the campaign through injury. Relations with the club nosedived when his controversial agent Mino Raiola claimed he would have to leave. But the Frenchman has let his football do the talking and has been in fine form in recent months.
Pogba has recorded three assists in the Premier League this season and they all came last month. He also set up a goal against Granada in the Europa League quarter-final and scored one himself against Roma in the next round.
Doubts still linger about his future, as his contract expires in 2022. United may have to sell him if they cannot find an agreement to extend his stay.
It seems like Pogba might be willing to sign up, but previously admitted to hating being on the bench earlier this season. He has made five appearances as a substitute in the Premier League this term, the most of any campaign he has spent at Old Trafford.
But a statistic recently emerged revealing that United do better when Pogba is on the bench compared to when he starts. They earn an average of 1.9 points per game he starts, but manage 2.2 points per game when he is on the bench.
Still very much a team player, Pogba joked about the statistic when Canal+ told him about it.
“So you have to put me on the bench then!” he quipped.
“I had not seen this statistic. If the team does better without me, I would totally understand that the coach would put me on the bench.
“It’s a good challenge for me anyway. I hope it turns to the other side. I hope people will win more with me than without me.”
Even when he has been on the pitch, Pogba has had to adapt this season. The influence of Bruno Fernandes in attacking midfield has pushed Pogba into other territories.
For example, he has sometimes started from a wider position, or alternatively, has had to drop deeper. In turn, that has reduced the number of goals and assists he has got.
But Pogba is still making his presence known and compared the role he occupies now to that of compatriot N’Golo Kante.
“I try to be as decisive as possible, despite being further from the goal,” he said (as translated by Goal). “I have other qualities than those of being a match winner.
“I’m deeper on the pitch and more defensive. It’s a N’Golo Kante role, let’s say.
“I feel good. Physically I feel better.”
Raiola fuels fire surrounding Pogba exit
Despite Pogba’s renaissance in recent weeks, Raiola has still been vocal about his client’s future.
The 28-year-old has regularly been linked with a return to Juventus or a move to Real Madrid, where he could work under fellow Frenchman Zinedine Zidane.
And Raiola spoke openly about the chances of a move to the Bernabeu in a recent interview.
Asked if Pogba could still move to Madrid, Raiola told AS: “I do not know.
“I think that nothing is impossible, but football depends on the day. As it is. And you have to be flexible to think of all the possibilities.
“And if tomorrow Madrid wants to make a Hazard-Pogba change? It is just an example. And if all four parties like it, why not?”
Asked why the 28-year-old has not yet moved to Madrid, Raiola stressed that the desire remains.
“It is a question to ask Madrid,” the agent said. “At one time Pogba felt a lot of love and trust from United, and there were several other clubs.
“Later, it is very difficult for United and Madrid to understand each other for a great transfer, because strong clubs do not want to sell strong players to other strong clubs.
“And I’m not going to fool him, for Pogba playing for Madrid was always a very attractive thing for Zidane too. He is his idol as a young man.”