Buying back starlet Paul Pogba from Juventus is not the answer for Manchester United
When I look back on my return from retirement for Manchester United in the spring of 2012 I sometimes wonder whether coming back into the team contributed to blocking the development of young players who were hoping to break through, and one in particular.
Paul Pogba was a bright young lad who made his debut for United at the end of January that year in a game I played in against Stoke City. He left the following summer after many genuine attempts by the club to persuade him to stay, went to Juventus on a deal that was only worth a training compensation payment to United and now is one of the hottest properties in European football.
Next week, Paul's club Juventus faces Real Madrid in a Champions League semi-final, and he might be back from injury for the second leg in Spain on May 13.
I've heard his value is put at anything up to £70m. He is undoubtedly a very talented boy and there is no question that, given the choice United would rather have kept him.
Would it have been any different if I had not come back for that last 18 months? I think my return to the team, and the game time Paul got, was a small part of it.
From United's point of view, it is always difficult to tell just when a young footballer is going to mature into a first-class professional ready to play at the highest level, but the story of how Pogba slipped away from United has more than one strand to it.
I should say that Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to keep Paul.
He was a very good footballer: technically excellent, and he knew how to strike a ball.
But I don't suppose it helped having an old boy come back into the team in front of him. The reality was that he had not played well enough to deserve a regular place before then because, if that had been the case, our manager would undoubtedly have selected him. He had no problem picking a young player once he was convinced the lad in question was ready.
Although I never spoke to Sir Alex about the details, the understanding in the dressing room was that Paul's advisers just asked for too much money for his next professional deal. They wanted first-team money for a player who was not in the first team at that stage.
United felt that was not right and stuck to their principles. He left that summer and very quickly established himself at Juventus.
As for United, I don't feel they should go back to sign Pogba for the sums being talked about having lost him for the compensation payment. Chelsea did the same when they bought back Nemanja Matic from Benfica, but his fee was nothing like the numbers quoted for Pogba.
I go back to my earlier point. Did I contribute to blocking Pogba's route to the first team? Or was it just one of those strange coincidences that he blossomed into a first team-ready player just months after his United contract expired? Timing is everything with young players and even at a club like United it is possible for events to work against you.
There was no better manager at developing young players than Sir Alex. He knew just when to bring them in and take them out, and he believed in Paul Pogba.
For once, in Paul's case it did not work out. The timing was wrong and the difference between expectation on the player's side, and the manager's idea of his development did not match up. And, yes, perhaps I was a small part of the problem for those five months we were both competing for a place.
But at the very least Pogba got a chance at United. He had seven sub appearances, about what his performances for the Under-21s merited. For those young lads who find themselves consistently blocked by a steady flow of more experienced players coming in ahead of them, the first team must seem a very distant place indeed.