What’s made Paul Pogba tick again?

Paul Pogba is back! Most chances created against Bournemouth, tracking back to make tackles and blocks, breaking into the opponents’ box with the endeavour of club legend Bryan Robson and, with another brace, he’s scoring goals for fun.

So what exactly is going on?

Only a mere matter of weeks ago social media was awash with footage of he and Jose Mourinho arguing in training, the armband was unceremoniously removed and a seat on the bench was the best that life was going to get for United’s £90 million superstar.Euro Fantasy League put the question to sport psychologist David Horrocks, a man whose PhD and subsequent publications are on the very fabric of and the existential state of successful individuals from Manchester United Football Club.

“The first thing you have to look at is how does the person, the environment and the task at hand balance themselves out. Is there harmony here, are there shared goals and characteristics and can they all exist and operate together?

“What does Manchester United stand for? I’m going to say, youth, expression, flair, bravery, risk and winning. Now look at Paul Pogba as a human being, what do you see?

“Don’t look at him as a Manchester United player of recent times, evaluate Paul Pogba as the boy who took on Sir Alex, the young man who blossomed at Juventus, a cog in France’s midfield, the emoji man, the dabber, the fashion conscious risqué haired ‘person’ – yes person… a human being.

“Is there a match here? In my professional opinion the answer is yes.

“It would appear from the outside that what has happened at Manchester United recently is that the manager and his coaching team have said, do you know what Paul? It actually is all about you. That’s why the club bought you.

“Any HR department worth its salt (this is big business in modern top level recruitment) has a ‘person criteria’ and a ‘role and responsibilities criteria’ which sits within a cultural backdrop.

Paul Pogba fits the United bill. He’s only 25 years of age and has the world at his feet, he just needed someone to believe in him, trust him and allow him to be…. Paul Pogba.

“It sounds simple, well so far it is, but what now needs to be added into the mix is challenge. There was once a young man called Cristiano Ronaldo who, arguably for a while, displayed similar petulance to that which Pogba has recently been accused of. Look where he ended up post Man United.

“I don’t for a minute doubt Paul Pogba doesn’t work hard. Without having to be a world leading sports scientist, one glance at his frame as he removes his shirt on exit from most stadiums reveals a body that hasn’t been achieved watching TV or by playing FIFA.

“Solskjaer and his team have so far realised a significant turnaround in both the process and the performance of the once enigmatic Frenchman, but next on the menu is how far can they take this? He’s won the World Cup (check), won four Serie A titles (check), one Europa League (check) and a few domestic cups.

“What Manchester United and certainly the coaching staff and manager now need to ascertain is exactly how far Paul wants to go. Benchmark him against context relative great players and the club already has the perfect template and knowledge in Ronaldo. Re-assess the potential person, environment and task and crank up the dials.

“In essence, Paul Pogba is being able to be who he is right now because Solskjaer, Phelan et al are wise enough to have let this happen. However, not only do they appear to understand and accept him for who he is, they add icing to the cake by encouraging the kid. Simple man-management and coaching of ‘talent.’ Let it be.”

From this point onwards, how far up the ladder Pogba climbs will be down to the person he is, his environment, task desired, and working hard to achieve that next level.

Solskjaer and Phelan will be cornerstones of that further development and will want to know… How can we help you? Do you want it? How can we challenge you? Are we all good?  Let’s work together on this…

Et voila. Simplicity really is genius.

David Horrocks is a Sports Psychologist, Elite Performance Researcher and a director of Sensible Soccer

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