For Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, it was the deal of which he was most proud.

Bringing Paul Pogba back to United in 2016, for a world record fee of £89million, was an onerous transfer to pull off, but a personal triumph for Woodward, who had been held accountable for the succession of poor signings in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.

Landing Pogba from Juventus, though, was viewed as a coup, the 23-year-old midfielder recognised as one of the world’s most accomplished in his position.

Three-and-a-half years on and the signing of Pogba can be filed among the lengthy list of costly deals that have failed to come off for United since Ferguson’s departure in 2013.

Angel Di Maria, Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, Radamel Falcao, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez - now Pogba.

There have been high points for Pogba, the Europa League and League Cup wins in his first season back at United, but the 26-year-old has never come close to justifying his status as their most expensive player.

Pogba is set to leave United in January

Jose Mourinho championed Pogba when the pair arrived at United together in the summer of 2016, building his side around him, but their harmonious alliance soon soured following a series of indolent displays.

After a high-profile spat in training, in the full glare of TV cameras, Mourinho relegated Pogba to the bench for the last three Premier League games of his United reign, their relationship broken.

There was an immediate recall when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Mourinho, which culminated in the Frenchman reminding United just what they had been missing.

There was the sublime cross field delivery to set up Marcus Rashford for the winner in a 1-0 win away at Tottenham.

And there were goals too, 13 in the Premier League last season, a career-best return for Pogba, to go with the nine assists he also produced in the league.

But as United’s form fell off a cliff under Solskjaer towards the end of last season, missing out on the Champions League following his permanent appointment, Pogba and his agent, Mino Raiola, began agitating for a move.

Pogba has proved an expensive frustration

Real Madrid were keen, but United dug in their heels, despite both Pogba and Raiola going public with their desire for a fresh challenge. Pogba went on United’s pre-season tour of Australia and the Far East, amid concerns he may boycott it to force through a move.

This season has been a familiar tale of regression, albeit with the caveat of a foot injury that has sidelined him since September 30.

Uploading to social media, footage of himself playing basketball, when he was unable to train because of his ongoing foot injury, was met with dismay by some United fans.

And there was further controversy this week, when footage, again posted on social media, showed Pogba dancing freely at his brother’s wedding in France, followed by the revelation he had been struck down by a mystery ailment 24 hours later, thus further delaying his long-awaited comeback.

Both episodes, set against the backdrop of the summer saga over his future, painted a picture of a player with his own interests firmly ahead of those of his employers.

Mourinho struggled to find Pogba’s best position, playing him deep and in a more advanced role, while Solskjaer encountered the same issue when he took over.

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Yet the real reason for Pogba’s failure to make the desired impact at United seems to be down to the player himself, and his reluctance to fully embrace the challenge of taking the club back to the top.

In recent months Solskjaer has talked of wanting players who are desperate to give their all for United and put the club first.

If it is true that ‘a talent unfulfilled is the greatest waste of all’ then Pogba is the embodiment of that maxim, a player blessed with sublime talent but lacking the ability to showcase it on a consistent basis.

He won Serie A titles with Juventus and the World Cup with France, but his time at United, which looks to be coming to an end with his continued desire to move on, has to go down as an unmitigated failure.

Bought to lead United out of the wilderness and back to the summit, Pogba has fallen short of that and looks to have reached the end of the road with the Reds.

The right player at the wrong time for United? Perhaps, but with the team now thriving in his absence, with players hungry to pull on the famous red shirt and give their all for the badge, he is unlikely to be missed when he eventually leaves United for the second time.