As Adnan Januzaj announced himself to the world with an outstanding brace for Manchester United at the weekend, a former Old Trafford starlet revealed the exact moment he decided to leave.
It was New Year’s Eve 2011, when Paul Pogba sat on the United substitutes’ bench watching an injury-ravaged side lose 3-2 to Blackburn Rovers.
While Will Keane and Anderson were sent on to attempt to rescue at least a point, the French midfielder sat and waited, as he had done and would continue to do until he ultimately left for Juventus six months later.
Speaking to French television show Telefoot, Pogba said, “I said to Ferguson, ‘Play me, and I will show you if I am ready or not. Against Blackburn…I was on the bench. Ferguson puts Rafael in midfield with Ji-Sung Park. Then I gave up.”
He has since done anything but, excelling for the Italian champions with a series of performances that showcased just what United missed that depressing December day two seasons ago.
But in a strange twist of fate, the player who scored the winner that day made more headlines on Sunday, only not the ones he would have hoped for.
While Yakubu and Dimitar Berbatov shared braces for Rovers and United respectively back in 2011, the winning goal came from a 20-year-old defender only just beginning his footballing career.
When Grant Hanley scored Blackburn’s third with 10 minutes to play, Pogba saw that not only was he overlooked when injuries left little alternative, but those who were chosen ahead of him fell short.
Hanley has since gone on to become a permanent fixture in Blackburn’s team. But on Sunday his moment of madness ultimately played a significant part in his side’s 2-1 defeat to Wigan Athletic.
That Hanley was given the captaincy at the weekend made his red card for pushing a hand into the face of a Latics player all the more ridiculous.
And which Wigan player did he lash out at? It was Nick Powell – who is currently on loan from United – proving, in a somewhat tenuous way, that football really is a funny old game.
So while Powell and Januzaj continue to suggest they are United’s future, a man who helped make up the mind of the one that got away changed a game in a very different way to that one back in 2011.
If Ferguson had picked Pogba that day, Hanley may never have scored and the Frenchman may never have left. But such is the sport we love – that a single decision can affect so much more than a single game.
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image: © Romana Correale