Largely forgotten amid the circus that is Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford on Tuesday night is another notable reunion.
Paul Pogba will take on his former club Juventus for the first time since moving back to Manchester United in what was then a world record £89million transfer in the summer of 2016.
It is merely a sub-plot in a fascinating Champions League encounter but it isn’t difficult to contrast the free-wheeling Pogba of his Juve days with the misfiring player we see at United.
Paul Pogba is preparing to face his former club Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday night – as well as his old friend and Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri
Pogba’s relationship with Allegri is in stark contrast to his current one with Jose Mourinho
The French midfielder enjoyed four highly successful seasons at Juventus before returning to United in the summer of 2016
When Pogba’s career is put into biography in a few years time we’re likely to look back on his second spell with United as a retrograde step.
Though the Frenchman could yet turn things around, it looks increasingly likely he will not replicate the considerable success and progress he enjoyed in four seasons with the Italian club between 2012 and 2016.
Pogba was adored by the Bianconeri faithful and he enjoyed his time there, becoming one of the finest players in world football.
Even if the hearsay and rumour of a potential Juventus return prove to be rubbish, a snap poll of their fans would almost certainly be in favour of that particular #POGBACK.
Pogba pictured during his first spell at Manchester United, where he came through the ranks
Pogba won four Serie A title and two Italian Cups during his four seasons with Juventus
Massimiliano Allegri inspects the scenery at Old Trafford ahead of Tuesday night’s match
Pogba isn’t the only one being reunited with a former club as Cristiano Ronaldo returns
Contrast too the fractured relationship between Pogba and United manager Jose Mourinho with how the midfielder got on with his mentor during the final two seasons at Juve, Massimiliano Allegri.
Such was their harmony, the club released YouTube videos of player and manager taking on one another in football and basketball shooting challenges.
They laugh and joke, bicker light-heartedly over what the score is, with Allegri gently mocking Pogba when he emerges victorious in both. The two videos have amassed almost 10 million views.
It’s safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing Pogba and Mourinho shooting anything other than thinly-veiled jibes in the near future.
Pogba takes on Allegri in a basketball shooting challenge during his time with Juventus
Allegri actually gets the better of Pogba in the challenge despite his worse technique
A year earlier, Pogba had taken on Allegri in a mini goals shooting challenge in training
In that, Allegri managed to get the better of his player thanks to some sharp-shooting
POGBA AT JUVENTUS
37 matches, 5 goals
51 matches, 9 goals, 16 assists
41 matches. 10 goals, 11 assists
49 matches, 10 goals, 16 assists
178 matches, 56 goals, 71 assists
Serie A (4): 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16
Coppa Italia (2): 2014-15, 2015-16
Champions League runner-up:
Pogba’s four years in Turin were highly successful – they won the Scudetto each season, plus two Italian Cups. A Pogba-powered Juventus reached the Champions League final in 2015, only to lose to Barcelona.
His performances throughout were all-action, the players around him working to help him flourish. With Andrea Pirlo sitting in and directing play behind him and Arturo Vidal hunting opponents, Pogba was liberated to create.
He could remain higher up the field, picking passes to the strikers and even shooting from range, safe in the knowledge that Vidal and Pirlo had his back.
Thirty-four goals and 43 assists in 178 matches for Juventus tells its own story about the influence Pogba had on that team as first Antonio Conte and then Allegri carefully nurtured his development.
Of course back in 2012, he was the prodigy United let slip through their fingers. Pogba left Old Trafford amid acrimony as Sir Alex Ferguson accused him of a lack of respect.
But it proved the right move for Pogba, who was afforded far more game time and freedom to express himself than he ever would have been at United.
Pogba was continuously learning, a process that the 25-year-old seems to have abandoned following his return to Manchester, while Mourinho has never cracked how to get the best out of him.
After all the razzmatazz of his unveiling, Pogba underwhelmingly ended up playing alongside either Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera or Michael Carrick in a defensive midfield role during his first season.
Paul Pogba’s return to Manchester United has largely been a frustrating one
Pogba was involved in a filmed training ground argument with Jose Mourinho last month
Relations between Mourinho and Pogba stand in stark contrast to his harmony with Allegri
There has been neither the tenacious Vidal nor the deep-sitting Pirlo figure to allow Pogba to spring forward and wreak havoc and the frustration has gradually built.
It burst into the open last season when Pogba argued with Mourinho over tactics on the touchline at Tottenham and then found himself dropped. Mourinho’s natural caution was at odds with Pogba’s instincts.
This season has seen pretty much open warfare, with Pogba stripped of the vice-captaincy, various barbs and a filmed bust-up in training.
How Pogba probably wishes he could go back to shooting hoops with Allegri behind the Juventus training centre. Coming up against Juventus again will only highlight the disparity between his past and his present.