Paul Pogba has continued to attract criticism even during his time out injured, to the bemusement of Rio Ferdinand.
Rio Ferdinand is baffled how Paul Pogba is still being blamed for Manchester United's issues despite missing most of the season through injury and urged ex-professionals not to "beat him with a stick" just because he is different.
For much of Pogba's second spell at Old Trafford, the France international has polarised opinion among supporters and pundits – with few doubting his ability, but many suggesting he should be decisive on a more consistent basis.
Pogba cost United a reported £89million when he returned from Juventus in 2016, but many former players claim he has not shown enough for that to be considered a good deal, with Roy Keane and Graeme Souness two notably prominent – and frequent – detractors.
He hit back at Souness earlier this month, claiming he did not even know who the Liverpool icon was, prompting the Scot to swipe back with a jibe that urged World Cup-winner Pogba to "put his medals on the table".
And Ferdinand, a former team-mate of Pogba's at United, finds it astonishing the 27-year-old has still attracted a lot of flak this term in spite of making just seven Premier League appearances.
"A lot of it is from social media – a lot of what they say stems from his social media presence and a lot of those guys are old school," Ferdinand said on his official YouTube channel.
"[Ex-pros] want people to follow suit of those before them, they want people to be serious about the game, not broadcasting stuff on social media. He's injured, going to a wedding and dancing, in the changing room and dancing – this is Pogba, that's his life, the way he is.
"You can't beat him with a stick because that's his personality, he's different. This generation of player is different to my generation and even more different to the likes of Keane and Souness. The landscape has changed so much that we can't expect them to behave the way we did.
"Pogba doesn't drink, he's not a nightclub merchant, but he goes on social media. What's worse? Because the people we were talking about before, like myself, would be in a nightclub, or drinking at times, but he doesn't do that.
"But he's still being vilified for being present, happy. And that's a big thing – he's being happy while injured. I don't agree with that [criticism] – mental health is a big issue, if you can't be yourself in your downtime while injured… What do people expect? You to sit around and be depressed?
"To keep on absolutely pounding him with blame and bringing his name into the conversation right now in such a negative way. He's played seven [Premier League] games this season, and he's the focal point as to why United aren't doing so well. How does that happen, how is he to blame?"
Ferdinand feels Pogba might have expected more from himself since re-joining, though he does not think the midfielder has been helped by the state of United's recruitment and planning.
"I've said on multiple occasions, he's a very honest guy and he will have expected more in himself," he added. "But when you actually look at his stats in the squad in the last four seasons played, he's at the top in terms of passing, chances created, assists, ball retention – he's the catalyst pushing the team on when fully fit.
"Has he been the Pogba we come to expect on a consistent basis when he's a £90m transfer? I'd argue he probably hasn't been as consistent as you'd like, but this has been a squad in absolute transition and has had multiple managers.
"If you spend £90m in a certain part of your business, you'd probably make that the jewel in your crown, but I don't think that's happened with Pogba."