There are few players who have gone against the wishes of Sir Alex Ferguson and lived to tell the tale.
Roy Keane, Jaap Staam and David Beckham are amongst those who failed to heed the warnings of the Scot and soon found themselves out in their ear despite being an integral part of a very successful United side indeed.
“It was one of the mistakes I made – hopefully I haven't made too many – but that was one," Ferguson admitted of his decision to sell Stam to Lazio for £16.5 million after revelations in the Dutchman’s autobiography, while Keane’s ‘differences with (former assistant boss) Carlos Queiroz’ and Ferguson’s decision to side with the current Portuguese national coach spelled the end of Keane’s illustrious career at Old Trafford.
Ferguson’s recent feature length interview with the BBC painted him as more genial figure these days, something backed up by the fact he now speaks to the broadcaster after years of embittered squabbling with them over accusations levelled at his son.
There’s no doubt that the furiously-chomping manager has mellowed over the years while maintaining all his desire and drive to keep on scrapping for league titles, especially now Manchester City have emerged as the latest threat to his side’s monopoly at the top of the table.
But losing talented youngster Paul Pogba to Juventus will evoke the fire of old in the battle-hardened boss as he comes to terms with seeing another member of the United youth team have his head turned by pound signs in the eyes of his agent.
Reports suggest Pogba has agreed a deal to join the Italian club after much speculation over his future across the last 12 months, while his connection with agent Mino Railoa, who according to reports will take home ‘€2 million commission ‘ from the €1 million-per-season deal he secured for his young client has also angered Ferguson.
Tellingly, Pogba didn’t train with his (now possibly) former team-mates ahead of Thursday’s game against Athletic Bilbao while he also didn’t feature in Tuesday’s reserve fixture against West Brom. Juventus’s refusal to comment on the story says more than any offical club statement ever could.
Pogba, at just 18-years-old, was marked as one of the brightest young talents to have emerged from the United youth academy in recent years, along with another now ex-United player Ravel Morrison.
Losing Morrison, a player deemed capable of reaching similar heights to Pogba, to West Ham in January was deemed begrudgingly acceptable by Ferguson.
While his talent was not in doubt his attitude was and the fact that streams of stories appeared linking him with numerous leading European clubs before his move to the Championship side validated claims made by Ferguson that ‘his agent was working hard to find him another club’ for monetary gain.
But Pogba seemingly has it all going for him, and carried none of the baggage of his former youth team-mate.
One man who should know a thing or two about bright young talents to emerge from United’s much-vaunted youth system having done so himself is Paul Scholes, who also spent some time coaching youngsters during his brief retirement.
“Pogba has got amazing talent," Scholes commented when asked about Pogba last year. “He’s such a big lad for his age. The physique he’s got is unbelievable.”
Ferguson’s desperate urgings for the youngster to ‘look around him and realise’ what he could achieve at Old Trafford appear to have fallen on deaf ears while his admittance that he set Rio Ferdinand the task of ‘working hard’ on him and persuading Pogba to stay is evidence enough of how highly rated he is.
Of course there was one thing Ferguson could have done to help keep him at the club, and that was to give him more than just a glimpse of the United first team.
Since his controversial arrival from Le Havre in 2010 – United have certainly lived and died by the sword in that respect after ‘poaching’ him from the French club – he has featured in just one Premier League, as a substitute against Stoke.
Rumours he would hand him a rare start in the Europa League clash against Ajax with the tie seemingly over after their 2-0 victory in Amsterdam in the first leg proved to be untrue and possibly the final nail in the coffin.
But there is a feeling, both in the media and from the club that even first team football wouldn’t have been enough to stop him chasing the money. The Guardian suggested he had ‘employed an Italian-based agent' (Railoa) to find him the best deal possible away from United.
That United would not budge on their (logical) beliefs that handing young untested players astronomical deals would set a dangerous precedent for the future was the final nail in the coffin.
There is nothing wrong with that stance but it appears to have cost them one of the brightest young talents around; a player who has the potential (although for now that is all it is) first team regular and save Ferguson, who has made his displeasure at delving into the over-priced transfer market, the trouble of finding a similarly talented midfielder.
Perhaps short-sighted, Ferguson had no real option to change his stance and go against the theory of bringing players through over the years before rewarding them with big salaries.
He was in a philosophical mood when discussing Pogba late last year as his trouble’s with the player's ‘difficult’ agent became apparent.
“If you’re good enough, you will earn money and become rich playing for Manchester United.”
Time after time players to have graduated from United’s youth team have proved Ferguson’s statement correct; Pogba faces a hard task proving that going against United’s most decorated manger was the right thing to do.
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