With last week’s long-awaited announcement that Paul Pogba is once again a Manchester United player, so ends one of the most protracted and fiercely-debated transfer sagas in recent years.
As attention slowly shifts away from the record-breaking £89 million transfer fee, however, talk has begun to turn towards where exactly Pogba will fit into Jose Mourinho’s new-look Manchester United this coming term.
Having this week declared himself fit enough to feature for United, the combative Frenchman is widely expected to make his debut for the Red Devils against Southampton on Friday.
With United having made a very strong start to their Premier League campaign – comprehensively beating Bournemouth 3-1 away in their curtain-raising fixture – and it is not immediately clear where Pogba will actually fit into the team.
Whilst the general consensus seems to be that Pogba will partner one of either Morgan Schneiderlin or Marouane Fellaini in the heart of Manchester United’s midfield, some have begun to wonder whether utilising Pogba in a slightly deeper role may just stifle some of his undoubted overall ability.
Standing a full three inches over six feet, and possessing impressive ability both in the air as well as with the ball at his feet, very few doubt that Pogba possesses the ability to play in a more defensive role. Some are starting to question, however, the talented Frenchman’s suitability to such a position.
After all, Pogba was involved in an astounding 20 league goals for former employers Juventus last season – scoring eight and directly assisting a further 12 – playing in a role which effectively saw him granted a free-role in the heart of the Italian champions' midfield.
Whilst positionally at least his touted role at Manchester United might not sound too different from this situation, given current manager Mourinho’s tendency to favour well-disciplined, tough-tackling holding midfielders – Michael Essien, Sami Khedira, Javier Zanetti, Nemanja Matic – the likelihood of Pogba being granted a similar level of freedom to last term remains very slim.
If he is therefore to be granted a greater attacking license over the coming season for Manchester United, then this must surely come from his occupation of one of the teams four attacking positions – assuming Mourinho intends to continue with his 4-2-3-1 formation.
This is not as straightforward as it sounds however. With Wayne Rooney having been repeatedly assured of his place in United’s starting line-up, and with Zlatan Ibrahimović having already made a stunning start to his United career, two of the possible four positions already seem to be occupied.
Then you have Anthony Martial, a man who not only joined the club in a Pogba-esque record-breaking transfer deal, but also someone who was one of United’s very few bright sparks last season – scoring an impressive 17 goals in all competitions in his debut campaign.
As a result of this lofty price tag and exploits for United last term, it appears Martial is also set to retain his place in United’s starting eleven.
This leaves just one position then, and with Pogba, fellow summer signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Memphis Depay, Juan Mata, Ashley Young, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, and Andreas Pereira all capable of occupying it, it seems competition for places this season at Manchester United might just be the fiercest it has ever been.