Richard Buxton: Finally looking like the Pogba that Man United need
French midfielder's recent heroics crucial to the Red Devils' rise to the summit
Paul Pogba has become the unlikely poster boy for Manchester United's renaissance.
A player who formerly embodied everything wrong with life at Old Trafford - and to a degree still does - is proving to be their saviour in the English Premier League title race.
The World Cup winner stepped up to the plate to help the Red Devils edge out Fulham in a 2-1 victory yesterday morning (Singapore time), finding the winner for the second midweek running.
Without Pogba's heroics against the London side, and Burnley before them, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side would be trailing an imperious Manchester City at the summit.
Given how seldom he has consistently excelled in 4½ years with them, the leaders might be forgiven for wondering if another sting in the tail is imminent.
Sir Alex Ferguson famously compared his relationship with Pogba's agent Mino Raiola to "oil and water". Until recently, those principles also applied to the midfielder and United.
They still do, off the pitch at least, with the Italian routinely touting his most high-profile client for an impending departure from the 20-time English champions. The only question had been whether his destination would be Real Madrid or back to Juventus.
Before this season, recouping a mere fraction of the 27-year-old's once record-breaking fee of £89 million (S$161.5m) appeared a tall order, with neither the reigning Spanish nor Italian champions seemingly willing to consider such largesse in the current climate.
Both will now be standing at the front of a growing queue of viable suitors, following his resurgent run of games which has eroded some long-standing doubts and even dissent.
Pogba is not alone in believing that leaving Old Trafford could avail a vicious cycle of poor form. Wayne Rooney briefly agonised over a move away in the 2010/11 campaign, before subsequently reneging and firing United to that season's EPL title at a relative canter.
History may repeat itself with the France international truly coming of age in the match-winning outing at Fulham, where he was battling more than just the elements.
Being caught cold in the build-up to Ademola Lookman's opener as driving rain flew in off the River Thames hinted Pogba would again allow himself to go through the motions.
Too often, he has resembled a petulant child than the player hailed a leader of men during his country's eventual coronation as world champions in 2018.
Few realistically expected that contrasting persona trait to be reversed, not in a United shirt at least.
Pogba, however, went on to produce arguably his most complete performance at club level. A thunderous strike rounded off an all-encompassing midfield display which also boasted two successful take-ons, nine ball recoveries and 21 passes in the final third.
Such statistics, coupled with the match-winning strikes, mean Raiola's public pronouncements over his future are only set to grow louder in the coming weeks.
If Pogba can continue to rise above the noise of his outspoken representative, keeping United firmly in the conversation for their previous crown until the very last, he will finally be the master of his own destiny for a first time since returning in summer 2016.
He could either spearhead a potential new dynasty at the Theatre of Dreams or, at worst, end an eight-year wait to reclaim the EPL title as the ultimate parting gift.
Whichever course he chooses, Pogba and United are currently in a no-lose situation.