Cole staggered by reaction to Pogba masterclass
Ex-Manchester United striker Andy Cole has leapt to the defence of Paul Pogba after the France midfielder was criticised in some quarters, despite another outstanding display at Euro 2020.
The pre-tournament favourites crashed out on penalties to Switzerland after Pogba had illuminated the Bucharest game with a stupendous second-half strike to make the score 3-1. The Swiss battled back to force extra-time, with the late equaliser by Mario Gavranovic coming after United's no.6 was crowded out in midfield.
Although Pogba executed some incredible passes, set up two great chances for Kylian Mbappe and converted a perfect spot-kick in the shoot-out, there were still complaints about his contribution from the ITV panel, featuring Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane and Gary Neville.
Cole had tweeted to express his admiration for the "world-class" Pogba and was perplexed to see and hear the reaction to the 28-year-old's display, as he looked every inch like somebody who could win the Player of the Tournament award.
“I thought he was brilliant,” said Cole. “He proved to everyone just how good a player he is. Yeah, you’re still going to have people question him. A lot of people try to blame him for the third goal but I can’t get my head around that. If you lose the ball in their half, trying to create something, and then they run basically half a pitch to score a goal, that means his team-mates didn’t help him particularly well. If you’re going to blame him for that goal... It is what it is, but he proved just how good a player he is.
“Watching Pogba – oh my days,” he enthused. “If a midfield player of that calibre is going to take risks, you have to take risks. He’s got people like Kante and believes the back four are going to do things whereby he can make certain decisions in the midfield. For 45 minutes yesterday, I watched him and felt this is a top, top drawer midfield player.
“You can talk about he gave the ball away, but we all give the ball away. Mbappe missed a great chance when he should have gone inside on his right foot – has anyone mentioned that? It’s a Paul Pogba thing, I think. It was definitely a brilliant penalty too – he did everything well last night.
“I think he’ll be bitterly disappointed. Like you said, with the performance he put in as well, I thought he was brilliant. I listened to some of the comments and people were trying to [laughs]… I genuinely believed football was a team game. I genuinely did believe there were 11 players out there. I listen to everyone and the only player who was to blame yesterday was Paul Pogba. I thought he was brilliant: his passing throughout the tournament was absolutely immense; his creativity, his goal yesterday was top, top drawer.
“We can all sit here and pick up on people’s negatives and what they didn’t do. Let’s talk about his positives and what he did do. France have gone out, yeah, and were the better team. But, when it goes to penalties, it’s a lottery and they weren’t good enough on penalties.”
When asked if some people will never change their opinion on the World Cup winner, regardless of how he performs on the pitch, Cole agreed, stating: “100 per cent, 100 per cent. What I never understood is when people talk about when he was at Juventus, he did this and now he’s at Manchester United, he doesn’t do that. If you look at the two teams, it’s two sets of players that are totally different.
“I think Paul is trying extremely hard to do as much as he can, but when he is trying to do that is when he needs other people to step up as well. To be brutally honest, everyone prefers him in the Manchester United team rather than not in it. That tells you everything about what people say. Split or divided? Whatever. Everyone says: ‘Yeah, we need him in the team’ and when he doesn’t play particularly well, it’s not good enough. It’s six and two threes.”
No one please give me any chat about PP world class 🎂🔥🔥— Andrew Cole (@vancole9) June 28, 2021
For one of the Premier League's greatest-ever goalscorers, there is simply no doubting Pogba's world-class ability and his displays throughout Euro 2020 have only strengthened this view.
Although he will be bitterly disappointed to go out at the round-of-16 stage, there is no disputing the positive impression he has made on the finals and his wonder strike in Romania will be repeated for years and years to come.“I think Paul has been a world-class player for some time,” Cole insisted. “When I look at some of the nonsense like he doesn’t do it at Manchester United or doesn’t turn up, I’m not being disrespectful to anybody but I look at the French team, the World Cup winners, and it has talent in abundance. When you play someone like Kante in midfield, he does the job of two players so that French team is full of so much ability and so much class.
“Yet he’s the main man in that team, so how can you not talk about him being a world-class player when he’s playing at international level and bossing the game like he did do yesterday? So many people question him at Old Trafford, saying he’s not this and not that. It’s all about opinions and, like I’ve said, I would never tell anyone how to do their job. They know how to do their job but Paul Pogba knows how to do his job.”