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Transfer Rater: Talisca to Manchester United

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FA Cup

Paul Pogba criticism is unfair but is to be expected, given his price tag

When it was announced that Paul Pogba had re-signed for Manchester United, it was fairly predictable what would follow. Having starred for Juventus and then become the most expensive player in the world, expectation became unrealistically high.

If Pogba had scored and assisted more goals so far this season, he probably would have been given an easier time by the media and rival fans; but it's hard to imagine that in just seven months of re-adjusting to football in England, he would have ever been able to do enough to justify the price tag.

Frank Lampard hinted that Pogba might become a "£90 million problem" for United because he doesn't score as many goals as Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, as if this was a fair comparison.

Ultimately, it didn't take long for comparisons, which feel unfair, between a peak Lampard and 23-year-old Pogba to form. It's probably worth pointing out that when Lampard was Pogba's age, he had scored just 39 goals to Pogba's 49. Lampard had four appearances for England, as compared to Pogba's 44 for France. Lampard hadn't won a single trophy, while Pogba has won seven. Maybe if Pogba ever becomes the penalty taker for his club, he will boast a scoring record similar to Lampard when at his best.

But to put Pogba's game down to goals and assists is a foolish measurement, given that he has never scored more than 10 goals in a season. He wasn't bought to score goals, but when you consider he has hit the woodwork eight times this season, it's hard to ignore how unlucky he has been.

When you then also look at how wasteful United have been in front of goal, it's clear Pogba has missed out on a fair few assists, given the chances his teammates haven't taken. In their seven home draws, United had 136 shots but only scored five goals. You can only imagine how many assists the Frenchman could have claimed if the players he was passing to could then put the ball in the back of the net.

Only Alexis Sanchez has played more through balls than Pogba this season, while only Jordan Henderson has passed the ball more. In comparison to his United teammates, he has the most take-ons and the most chances created. Yet for all the defence, Pogba might receive against the exaggerated criticism, it doesn't change the fact that he hasn't yet looked like the player who bossed games in Serie A.

When Pogba left United for Juventus, supporters tried to console themselves over losing one of Europe's brightest young talents by dismissing his ability, calling him a "money-grabber" and praising the other young players they had available. Who needs Pogba when you've got Ryan Tunicliffe? The truth is that Sir Alex Ferguson made a huge mistake in the way he handled the situation and allowed his personal feelings of dislike for Pogba's agent, Mino Raiola, get in the way of doing what was right for the club.

The fact that United lost Pogba for next to nothing, only to break the world record transfer fee to bring him back, heaped further pressure on the player. People wanted it to fail, as it would inevitably add to the hilarity of spending so much money on him. However, had United not sold Pogba in 2012, there's not a chance he would still be at the club now. Real Madrid, Barcelona or some other club would have come knocking in the midst of the David Moyes and Louis van Gaal era, and United wouldn't have been able to hold on to him.

As it stands, Pogba wears a United shirt but isn't an £89 million player. He has largely played well but has gone missing in the big games. You would expect more from a player who cost so much. Over the past few weeks, he has put in a few disappointing shifts and missed a couple of easy chances.

But Pogba wasn't bought for this season alone. He's not a Radamel Falcao, who cost United a fortune in wages, only to not perform and ultimately leave at the end of the season. He's a player United are investing in for the long term. He has been fine this season and will hopefully be better next season, and even better the season after as he gets closer to his peak.

During his press conference on Tuesday, ahead of United's Europa League game against Rostov, Jose Mourinho launched into a passionate defence of his player.

"It's not Paul's fault that he gets 10 times the money that some players, some very good players, got in the past. It's not his fault that some of the pundits are in real trouble with their lives and they need every pound to survive and Paul is a multi-millionaire. It's not his fault. I think he deserves respect.

"I'm very happy with Paul. The club is very happy with Paul, and I think also a good thing is that because of his personality, he doesn't given an a-- what people say."

Pogba has got all the makings of a fantastic player. He showed how good he was in Italy, and it would be remarkable if he didn't develop in the same way now that he's back in the Premier League. But until then, he'll have to accept the inflated criticism that comes his way. After all, he has got broad enough shoulders and a big enough bank balance to cope with it.

Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.


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