Paul McGuinness, a former youth coach at Manchester United, shared a telling titbit about Paul Pogba soon after he became the most expensive footballer in the world last year.
“He would nutmeg players, pull off tricks and flicks,” McGuinness told The Times, referring to the games Pogba and his team-mates would often have at training. “They would all try to copy him, he was like the Pied Piper.”
West Ham danced to Pogba’s tune on Sunday, leaving a trail of defenders in his wake while Nemanja Matic masterfully conducted proceedings in the background.
But, even if his skill is put to one side, there is something inherently magnetic about Pogba. As McGuinness recalled, he is someone who others naturally gravitate towards.
He rekindled his youth team ‘bromance’ with Jesse Lingard last season and Marcus Rashford was quickly adopted as the youngest musketeer, but the Frenchman was just as comfortable sharing wisecracks with 35-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He also taught current captain Michael Carrick how to dab.
Young, old, new signing or part of the furniture – seemingly everyone is happy that Pogba is flashing his smile within the United dressing room.
Paul Pogba’s game by numbers vs. West Ham:
87% pass accuracy
3 aerial duels won
2 chances created
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 13, 2017
And when, as expected, Pogba takes the captaincy over from Michael Carrick next year, United will just have appointed their most suitable skipper since Roy Keane.
It was 20 years ago this summer that Keane took the armband. Blood, guts, thunder, menace, steel – you’d never run out of evocative words to describe how the Irishman dragged United to even greater heights.
Words to describe Pogba? Cool, sleek, modern, graceful, happy-go-lucky; the direct opposite of the complex character that was, and still is, Keane.
The only Twittering Keane has ever done is into the ear of the opposition. Ask him for a selfie and he’d probably give you a ‘dab’ across the mouth.
“I see players nowadays, they get a result and they’re taking selfies or swapping jerseys at half-time… they’re almost enjoying it too much,” Keane recently moaned.
His refusal to change with the times is likely why he has failed as a manager. In the mid-90s he was the king of the jungle, a jungle filled with battle-hardened veterans such as Gary Pallister, Denis Irwin and Peter Schmeichel.
In contrast, the modern dressing room are inhabited by creatures little more offensive than house cats. They need an arm around the shoulder, someone to crack a joke, a release away from football be it in the latest fashion trends or on social media.
Many United fans have been crying for another Keane for the last decade but the way he operates would break rather than make the next generation, whereas Pogba is the perfect leader for the modern era.
The 24-year-old is the next Keane – just with contrasting methods. Who knows, the Pied Piper might even get the sullen-faced Anthony Martial to eventually do a jig.
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