Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand believes Paul Pogba can take inspiration from Cristiano Ronaldo to learn to manage his ego.
Speaking to ESPN FC, Ferdinand said Ronaldo came to Old Trafford as a “showpony” and developed his ruthless side at the club, like Pogba should:
“Cristiano came as what we called a showpony, all the stepovers, looking good for the fans. He left the best player in the world, who lived and died by the end product. Goals and assists.
“But that’s down to intelligence, [Ronaldo] worked it out, actually, ‘that’s good that the people love me for that, but what’s going to get me there, to the top of the mountain. I need to adjust my game.’ And he left as the best player in the world.
“So Paul Pogba can look at that as something to learn from there as well. What do I really need to do to make myself the best midfielder on this planet?
“Listen, he’s got an ego, that’s not hard to see on social media, this boy’s got an ego, wants to be looked at and talked about as the best player. There’s a hunger and desire for that, with that comes a work ethic.”
Pogba has been a frequent target of criticism early this season as Manchester United have struggled, including from United legend and Ferdinand’s former team-mate Paul Scholes. Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, responded that Scholes “wouldn’t recognise a leader if he was in front of Sir Winston Churchill,” per Metro’s Sean Kearns.
There have also been questions about his long-term future at the club, and according to ESPN FC’s Rob Dawson, planned contract talks have been pushed back.
The 25-year-old was excellent in United’s last outing, a 2-1 win over Watford, but talk still focused on his relationship with manager Jose Mourinho. Appearing on BT Sport’s coverage of the match, Ferdinand explained how things are different from his time as a player:
The France international returned to Old Trafford in 2016 after a spell with Juventus, where he developed into one of the world’s best in his position. The Bianconeri surrounded him with established veteran midfielders like Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio, but he’s been the main man at United.
That role appears to have weighed him down somewhat, although it hasn’t been a problem with the national team, with whom he won the FIFA World Cup in the summer and played a starring role.
Ronaldo was still a teenager when he made the switch from Sporting CP to United, joining the Red Devils in 2003. He took some time to get settled in, and his flamboyant style of play led to clashes with several players, Guillem Balague wrote in Cristiano Ronaldo: The Biography in 2015 (h/t the Telegraph).
He eventually won over fans and team-mates with his productivity, which came as a result of his more direct approach. While Ronaldo still likes to use trickery today, everything he does is geared toward scoring.
Pogba will likely come face to face at least twice with the 33-year-old later this season, as United have been drawn in the same UEFA Champions League group as Juventus.