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Pogba & Stretford End abuse: Why it was perfect bookend to dismal Man Utd season

COMMENT: So is this it? Is this the modern day Manchester United? Your best player. At least, your best known. Half-naked. Copping insults from his own fans. And on the Old Trafford pitch? What a mess. What an absolute mess...

Will this be the enduring memory? From a disastrous campaign? Well, it will be for those who stuck around at the Stretford End. Witnessing such an unedifying scene. Defeat at home to relegated Cardiff City. A near empty Old Trafford. And Paul Pogba. Stripped to the waist. Gesticulating. Gesturing. In an exchange with an irate fan. The biggest club in the world. One everyone wants to be associated with. And for it's final moments of a mediocre season it produces a lasting image like this.

If you caught it. Wherever you were in the world. There was no missing the exasperation. The frustration of Lou Macari. When asked to comment on what he'd just seen live on United's TV channel. Stumbling through his words. Not due to any self censorship, but by the realisation of how far this club of his has fallen. The Scot's response was a mixture of anger and sheer bewilderment.

"Oh come on, come on! I haven't come here today to [see this]," pleaded Macari, clearly ditching protocol. "If it was somebody else I'd pick on somebody else. Whoever it would be I'd be saying: 'What are you thinking about?' What's this all about?'

"Keep your strip on to start with… who else do you see with a strip off?"

When it was pointed out that Pogba had stripped off to hand his shirt to a fan, Macari was having none of it: "Well he shouldn't do! He should get off the pitch and then send someone out with a strip.

"It's all about discipline. The discipline here under Sir Alex [Ferguson]."

Yeah, as we said, it was a little scattergun. But Macari's point still cuts through. This just shouldn't happen. Not at a club of United's size. Not the one of Sir Alex and Sir Matt. And Macari should know. He wore the captain's armband for the club. He stuck with United for their one season outside England's top-flight. Convincing those around him to also stay and help Tommy Docherty get them out of the Second Division at first attempt. For what he did during those tough times, his opinion should be heeded.

"A virus". That's how Jose Mourinho described Pogba. To his face. Well at least, that's how the story goes from that claimed bust-up after the draw with Southampton. Two weeks later and Mourinho was out on his ear.

But is Pogba the problem? Or is he just a symptom of something rotten at the heart of this club. Something which has been manifesting itself these past six years.

Pogba doesn't want this. He doesn't want to be all over the 'net. All over the world. Half-naked. Being verbally abused by one his own.

Less than a year ago, he was on top of the world. Literally. The World Cup winner. Feted around the globe. Even Graeme Souness had to eat his words. Yet back at United. His reputation, while not in tatters, has taken a major hit this season. All that goodwill from Russia a distant memory.

The social media antics. The loose interviews abroad. Would Pogba do the same at another club? Rowing with Mourinho. Rowing with fans. Can the same be expected if he gets to Real Madrid?

The answer's easy. Pogba will be given guidelines at Real. What is expected - on and away from the pitch. From whom? Well, you can take your pick. Zinedine Zidane. Sergio Ramos. Luka Modric. Right up to president Florentino Perez. They'll all have their say. And if Pogba slips up. They also have the personality - and authority - to pull him into line.

That's not to say Pogba is innocent in all this. He is ultimately responsible. But the culture. The personalities. Everything United have lost since the days of Sir Alex and David Gill. It's left players like Pogba with little guidance of what's expected. Just what fans can expect from those now seeking that guidance from Pogba... The likes of Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong.... Well, that's anyone's guess.

Pogba's a new father. It's not just about him now. He wants to be making memories for his son. Brawling on the pitch? With his own fans? He doesn't want this.

But that's what happened. A bookend to a dismal campaign. An image to sum up the dulling of standards these last six years. For an entity that hangs so much on image and history, there was nothing to be proud of here. Nothing you'd want to be associated with.

What a mess. What an absolute mess...

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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