Claude Makelele thinks Manchester United's style of play is "too much" for Paul Pogba. Makelele also believes Pogba needs time to recover from helping France win this summer's FIFA World Cup in Russia if he is going to reach his best form for the Red Devils.
Speaking to Martin Lipton of The Sun, Eupen head coach Makelele highlighted the differences between how Pogba plays for Les Bleus and how he performs for United:
"When I look at the Paul Pogba who plays for France and the one I see wearing a United short, it is clear the system is different. With France, the system is about position, counter-attack, fast players."
"But United have more possession and they are trying to get Pogba to create more and give more assists and score goals as well. It’s too much for him."
Makelele believes United's record buy has to learn to rely more on those around him:
"Pogba is a great player but he cannot play alone. He needs team-mates around him to make success. If you want him to be better you need to give him time."
"After the World Cup it’s so difficult to be physically, tactically and mentally right. When you come back from a competition like that you need four months."
Pogba has struggled for form in just over two seasons with the Red Devils. While he's begun this campaign by scoring twice, his performances remain the subject of scrutiny.
However, the attention paid to Pogba's efforts on the pitch isn't as intense as that given to his relationship with manager Jose Mourinho.
Makelele won two Premier League titles on Mourinho's watch with Chelsea, and thinks Pogba can learn from his former boss: "You have to ask him if he is happy to stay but with Mourinho you need to learn more about the way you need to be."
Things between Mourinho and Pogba deteriorated when the manager dropped the player late last season, according to James Robson of the London Evening Standard. Robson also pointed out how Pogba commands plenty of influence within Mourinho's squad, as well as with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who appreciates the 25-year-old's marketability.
All signs point to Pogba being a player Mourinho will have to build around whether he likes it or not. It won't be an easy task, especially since the player who cost a £89 million back in 2016 hasn't been shy about talking up the possibility of a move away.
Pogba left the door ajar for an exit from Old Trafford when he spoke to Sky in Germany (h/t Sky Sports) recently: "I still have a contract, I'm playing there at the moment, but who knows what will happen in the near future."
Getting the best from Pogba is likely to still hinge on whether he and Mourinho can co-exist. However, the stylistic contrast spotted by Makelele is curious, especially since Mourinho has usually built his teams to be cagey defensively and efficient on the break.
A desire to make Pogba more of a focal point going forward could explain the decision to sign Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk this summer. The Brazil international is a steady presence in possession, one who could free Pogba up to go hunting for goals more often.
With Nemanja Matic shielding the defence, while Fred keeps things ticking over in the middle, Pogba should have what he needs around him to thrive. It's up to the player to put aside any distractions or clashes of personalities and finally let his undoubted talent show.