Better the Neville you know
Let Mediawatch start with a warning: this is a Paul Pogba special. It was not intended to be, but the sheer volume and nature of the things written and said about him in the aftermath of a forgivable and explainable mistake was overwhelming.
Take Gary Neville, who described the Frenchman as “embarrassing” and the act of automatically protecting his face from a powerful shot as “an appalling lack of discipline”.
Because only the most regimented players insist on allowing their nose to be broken.
“I’d say less if it was instinctive,” the Sky Sports co-commentator continued, “but it was from 15 yards away that ball’s coming.”
It’s about ten yards and it’s hardly a tap. There’s not even a second between Declan Rice hitting it and Pogba blocking it. Instinctive is precisely what it was.
“It’s rubbish from him, rubbish!” 🚮
Paul Pogba inexplicably handles the ball in the box and Antonio punishes him on the stroke of half-time! ✋
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) July 22, 2020
“There’s no case for putting his arms up at all, duck out of the way if he wants, but don’t put your arms up.”
There is one case for putting his arms up: it was a basic human reaction. Let’s all just calm down.
Or alternatively, let’s all collectively be a bit weird.
“You don’t do that, you take it in the grid” – Gary Neville.
“Paul held his hands up knowing he should have taken it in the mush” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“Paul knows he made a big mistake. All United fans would want to see Paul Pogba bleeding. Even if the ball broke his nose! It’s difficult to defend Paul on this one” – Patrice Evra.
“He should probably take one in the face. He’s apologised in there. Held his hands up. He knew he shouldn’t do that” – Harry Maguire.
Is this not just a little bit over the top? And why are there so many words for ‘face’?
Bone of contention
Maybe the newspaper journalists can offer a little more perspective. After all, they were there, they have no allegiances or biases and no fanbase to appease by suggesting everyone should be like Nemanja Vidic in their reckless defensive abandon.
Over to you, Chris Wheeler of the Daily Mail.
‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer kept faith with David de Gea last night and discovered another player who can let down Manchester United with his hands. It’s Paul Pogba.’
‘Solskjaer can only hope his team show a little more backbone than the Frenchman when they face a Champions League shootout with Leicester City on Sunday.’
Hopefully that spinless coward Pogba will be dropped, sold and suspended by FIFA for instinctively blocking a shot with his hands anyway.
James and the giant reach
‘Paul Pogba gives away inexplicable penalty as Manchester United labour to draw with West Ham’ – Daily Telegraph.
The dictionary definition of ‘inexplicable’ is ‘unable to be explained or accounted for’. There is an obvious explanation, whether one agrees with it or not. But that’s not enough to please James Ducker.
‘United were trailing after a moment of bizarre indiscipline from their record signing but then up popped their teenage wonder to reprieve Pogba for his inexplicable decision to handle Declan Rice’s shot and concede a penalty from which Michail Antonio put West Ham in front on the cusp of half-time.’
Why is blocking a shot with your hands suddenly an example of ‘bizarre indiscipline’? Would the same have been said if it was Scott McTominay or Brandon Williams?
Jumping through hoops
F*** it. We’re in this deep so why not hear The Sun‘s Neil Custis out?
‘What was he doing with his hands flailing in the air to concede the penalty that Michail Antonio converted in first-half injury-time.’
Protecting his face, like many would in the same situation.
What were you doing asking a question without a question mark?
‘After a few viewings in Stockley Park it became clear that Pogba had put both hands up to protect himself from Rice’s shot that had not exactly come from point blank range.’
From where has this idea that Pogba had ages to react emanated? It’s not like Rice’s shot travelled the length of the pitch and he caught it. It was a few yards out and it was bloody fast.
‘Maybe the Frenchman thought he was back in Miami practicing his hoops, as he did during his never ending ankle rehabilitation.’
Maybe you’re a man child who can’t use hyphens and didn’t need much of an excuse to have a pop at his favourite target.
Yes, Mediawatch realises the irony.
Rating on a sunny day
At this stage, our only hope for sensibility comes from the player ratings. And as you might guess, that would be foolish to even suggest.
‘Gave away a blatant penalty by handling the ball instead of heading a thumping Declan Rice effort. 4/10’ – The Sun, who seem to believe Pogba faced a routine Rice cross instead of a powerful shot.
‘To give a penalty away is one thing. But for handball? It was a moment of madness from the France international and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be raging. 5/10’ – the Daily Express website, who would apparently have been more forgiving if Pogba conceded a penalty by punching Michail Antonio in the testicles instead. The incredulity in ‘but for handball?’ is hilarious.
‘Brainlessly conceded the crucial penalty that allowed West Ham to take the lead. Had no impact in the second-half. 3/10’ – the Manchester Evening News‘ Samuel Luckhurst, who would presumably throw himself in the way of such shots like a Disney prince instead of ‘brainlessly’ having human instincts.
And he sure did ‘have no impact in the second half’. Aside from that brainless pass and decoy run in the build-up to the equaliser, of course.
Soon after the final whistle, most outlets realised how lucrative quotes from Pogba would be. And although he does not often talk to the media, that won’t stop some from pretending he has spoken.
‘What Paul Pogba told his Man Utd team-mates at full-time after West Ham’ – Daily Star, who refer to Pogba as ‘public enemy number one at Old Trafford last night’.
‘Manchester United morning headlines as Paul Pogba apologises’ – Manchester Evening News.
‘Paul Pogba’s dressing room response as Harry Maguire hits out at “soft” penalty’ – Daily Mirror, who at least acknowledge the source of the actual quotes to be Maguire, not Pogba.
Football365 shithouse headline of the day
‘Tottenham tipped to launch £30m bid for Villa’s Mings’
…by Darren Bent.
Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Liew on Manchester United.
Melissa Reddy on Liverpool.
- Solskjaer offers predictable defence of calamitous Pogba handball
- Manchester United transfer news: Paul Pogba happy to stay at Old Trafford in January, confirms agent Mino Raiola
- ‘Manchester United don’t miss Paul Pogba’ – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told to sell star in January to fund transfer spree
- Paul Pogba: Manchester United star to undergo surgery after being ‘advised by his people’, says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer responds to Mino Raiola jibes as Paul Pogba’s agent goes on Twitter rant just before Manchester United’s win at Chelsea