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pogba debate Andy Cole leaps to Paul Pogba's defence as fall-out from France's Euro 2020 exit continues

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Paul Pogba of France looks on during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between France and Switzerland. (Photo by Daniel Mihailescu - Pool/Getty Images)

Paul Pogba of France looks on during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between France and Switzerland. (Photo by Daniel Mihailescu - Pool/Getty Images)

Paul Pogba of France looks on during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between France and Switzerland. (Photo by Daniel Mihailescu - Pool/Getty Images)

Suddenly, the midfielder Manchester United thought they were buying back in 2016 was back on our TV screens.

You know, the guy Old Trafford chiefs paid £89million to re-sign with the promise that he was 'coming home' on a mission to revive the glory days at United.

Yet, the five years since social-media icon Paul Pogba was unveiled as the club's returning hero, the questions he continues to throw up are more compelling than the answers he provides.

France may have crashed out of Euro 2020 after a dramatic defeat against Switzerland on Monday night, but Pogba caugh the eye again and has been widely hailed as the best midfielder on display in the tournament.

It has sparked the debate over why Pogba looks so good in France colours and struggles to replicate their performances when he is playing or Manchester United.

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Paul Pogba could be given a new deal at Manchester United (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)

Paul Pogba could be given a new deal at Manchester United (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)

Paul Pogba could be given a new deal at Manchester United (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)

"The player we see playing for France is not the player we see at United," said former Ireland captain Roy Keane on ITV after he watched Pogba's Euro 2020 efforts.

"He's surrounded by probably better players and he's more comfortable in that environment with the French team, but he looks like a leader. He doesn't do that at United. Not even close to it.

"We can ask questions why that happens, but there's no doubt the player we are seeing now is not the one we get at United."

Keane's former United team-mate Andy Cole offers up a very different view of Pogba. He told the Sunday World the 28-year-old midfielder is judged on different standards compared to his rivals.

"People expect too much from Paul Pogba and the criticism he gets is unfair," Cole told sundayworld.com at a BT Sport event. "I'm one of his biggest fans and I think he is world-class, without a doubt, but when he has a bad game, or doesn't play at his best for a few weeks, everyone is on him.

"Maybe he hasn't always been played in the right position at United because you look at how he played when he was at Juventus. And when he's in the France team, he looks fantastic.

"The disappointment for him at United has been that he came back to try and push the team closer to winning the Premier League title again, and that hasn't happened.

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Andy Cole played for Manchester United between 1995 and 2001 (PA)

Andy Cole played for Manchester United between 1995 and 2001 (PA)

Andy Cole played for Manchester United between 1995 and 2001 (PA)

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"Whether he stays at United for next season remains to be seen. Maybe the decision has already been made, but I think it will be a shame if he leaves and doesn't achieve what he set out to do at United.

"I don't think people understand how tough it is to play at the top of your game every week. You try to peak for big matches, but it's not always easy to do that. For me, Pogba is world class and I will argue with anyone who says the opposite."

Despite Cole's platitudes, the cynics will suggest the re-emergence of the silky-smooth Pogba is all part of the grand scheme hatched by the player and his agent to secure a big-money move in the next 12 months.

Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are among the clubs sniffing after a cut-price deal for a player who will be out of contract this time next year and can start negotiations on what would be a highly-lucrative free transfer come January.

With his 45 million fans on Instagram backed up by another 30 million followers on Twitter and Facebook, Pogba is a brand in his own right - and that's why there are suggestions United will offer him a huge contract to stay at the club.

Yet, history should tell them that the player they may back with a big-money contract cannot be relied upon to deliver when it matters most.

If United have not already learned from past experiences, handing Pogba a deal to become the club's highest earner would be laced with peril, as there is no guarantee they would get the return on their investment from a player who turns his talent tap on and off at will.

The prospect of Pogba leaving on a free transfer next summer may be an unpalatable prospect for United's accountants, but keeping him on a long and lucrative contract could equally risky.

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