Paul Pogba believes too much has been expected of him this season following his world-record transfer back to Manchester United.
The France international returned to Old Trafford from Juventus last August in a deal worth an initial £89.3million, but he has struggled to win over critics who feel that the fee was exorbitant.
Pogba has scored seven times and registered five assists in 43 appearances in all competitions, although he has frequently been deployed in a deeper midfield role in Jose Mourinho’s system.
And the 24-year-old feels much of the criticism of his form during his first year back in England has focused unfairly on the number of goals he has plundered.
“I think people look at me and judge me for not scoring goals and some things like that,” he told a news conference ahead of United’s Europe League quarter-final first leg against Anderlecht.
“Like I said, it’s football. The transfer is something else, on the pitch it’s something else.
“I’m a midfield player and people sometimes think I’m an attacking player. People say ‘Pogba should score goals, do this’. I think the press expect me to be a defender, a midfielder, a striker. But I just have to focus on my job. If I can make the team win, I’ll do it.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 12, 2017
“But my job is to play in midfield, make assists. If I’d scored some goals that hit the crossbar, people wouldn’t think like this. But it’s okay, it’s fine.”
Winning the Europa League is arguably United’s best chance of securing a return to the Champions League, with Mourinho’s side four points outside the Premier League top four and with games against Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham still to come this season.
Pogba feels that England’s top flight has proved to be more competitive than ever this term but insists United are ready to return to Europe’s elite.
“In Italy, it’s more tactical. You score less goals. In England it’s goals, attack,” he said. “You can see the Premier League is difficult, the top five is very close, the top two are fighting until the end.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen. Arsenal lost 3-0 to Crystal Palace and nobody expected that. The Premier League is something you cannot predict.
“I came to Manchester United for a big challenge and the challenge is to go back to the basics. It’s normal for them to play Champions League.
“We have everything to do it: the manager, the staff, the players. We have to go back to the Champions League. That’s the objective – the big one.”