Paul Pogba has provided the perfect answer to those claiming Manchester United blew their money on him.
A place in Sunday’s World Cup final with France has silenced all that ludicrous talk about his hair, his social media activity and the idea he hasn’t developed his game since returning to Old Trafford in that world-record move two years ago.
After the semi-final triumph over Belgium on Tuesday, even his Reds boss Jose Mourinho had to praise Pogba’s “mature” display.
Playing in central midfield, the former Juventus star’s defensive discipline — alongside N’Golo Kante of Chelsea — meant the Belgians could find no way past Les Bleus.
Soaking up the plaudits afterwards, Pogba insisted he was not getting ahead of himself, with Sunday’s final still to come. But he enjoyed the chance to hit back at his haters.
“They can criticise me, but they cannot criticise what I do on the pitch,” he said. “I have a love of football in my heart. I always will. If I hear good things or bad things, I will keep fighting.
“Obviously, it’s not done yet. It’s a dream. We are going through to the World Cup final – but you have to realise that dream.”
Pogba’s impressive displays have been a feature of France’s run to the final – in stark contrast to his struggles under Mourinho.
“I could always do one thing – and it was to play football. It was my love, my first love and today everything is fine," he said.
“We are winning. It’s always nice to win and to hear good things about the team, about yourself and everything.
“But I can improve and get better and better. I wouldn’t say that I’m young – but I’m not old yet! We are going through nice things right now, so we want to finish it and prove ourselves.”
In his role as a pundit for Russia Today , Mourinho said his £89million man stepped up his game with the spotlight on him in St Petersburg.
“It was a very good performance,” said the United boss. “Pogba was mature.
“He played with maturity and, when he had to hold position and keep control of the play, he did.
“When Didier Deschamps took off Olivier Giroud to bring on Steven Nzonzi, then Pogba had more freedom, but he used that freedom not to do silly things.
“He had freedom to keep the ball away from dangerous areas, to keep the ball, to assist Griezmann for a great chance. He was very, very mature.”
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