On a night where United picked up a much needed victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, a significant stamp in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s pursuit of the top four was in fact marred by the ongoing rift surrounding the injured Paul Pogba, his agent Mino Raiola and the Manchester United manager.
Paul Pogba’s departure from Old Trafford is becoming more and more inevitable with every passing week as his highly esteemed agent declared that the French World Cup winner is only committed to the club until the summer.
The midfielder has featured in only eight games all season, and despite his prolonged absence from the match day squad, his presence is actually quite telling. Certainly, United are desperately missing his cutting edge and spark on the pitch, but that’s not the case here. It’s his uncertain future and desire to leave Old Trafford that has somewhat brought a much bigger cloud over the whole club than Solskjaer would have wanted.
Let’s cut to the chase. In order for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United to move forward, they must get rid of all the unwanted negativity, and that means moving Paul Pogba on.
Rather than fielding questions upon United’s victory over Chelsea post-match, Solskjaer was left addressing the latest rift between himself and Mino Raiola with the super agent stating that Paul Pogba is not “owned” by Solskjaer, nor is he his “property”, depicting his client’s situation as some sort of modern day slavery.
Paul is not mine and for sure not Solskjaer’s property, Paul is Paul Pogba’s. pic.twitter.com/CvBHW8mj8U
— Mino Raiola (@MinoRaiola) February 17, 2020
It is a strategy deployed by Raiola not only to extract sympathy for Pogba’s current plight but mainly attempting to push United into a position of weakness rather than strength. It is believed, as per The Telegraph, that not only does Paul Pogba desire to leave Old Trafford, but he wants to do it on his own terms. His brother Mathias has even stated that Paul Pogba desires to leave Old Trafford in search of a much better challenge.
Paul Pogba’s brother Mathias was on El Chringuito TV last night and said: "Everyone knows that Paul wants to leave Manchester United, he wants to play Champions League football and win titles. We all know that won’t happen at United. We will see what happens this summer." pic.twitter.com/LSRDVI4YrK
— 360Sources (@360Sources) February 18, 2020
There’s no denying Paul Pogba’s qualities. This is a player who desires the best, and playing in the Champions League gives him that platform, but feels he can no longer achieve those lofty ambitions at Manchester United. As far as the player is concerned, there are better clubs to play for at this stage of his career and he does not want to wait around to see if Solskjaer can manage to get United back to where they belong.
Manchester United are in need of a cultural reboot, a period of transition from the failures and underachievement that has plagued the club since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure in 2013. Harboring a player who holds no desire to be a part of it should be moved on. As good a player Pogba is, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can ill-afford to surround himself with such a debacle as he embarks on improving United’s fortunes.
During the winter break, Brazilian midfielder Fred – albeit controversially – stated that not everyone in the team is following the same objectives and that there is a sense of vanity within the squad.
“We need to improve in everything. The togetherness within the team. [There is] vanity within the group. We need to focus on the same objectives.”
“When everyone has the same objectives in their minds, we start moving forwards.”
Solskjaer moved quickly to dismiss Fred’s assessment of the squad – as he should do as manager – but the Brazilian is certainly not wrong. In order for United to move forward, everybody must be on the same page. It’s clear Paul Pogba isn’t, and his agent Raiola isn’t helping matters.
What Raiola is trying to do is create a market for the player, and United must follow suit. Juventus and Real Madrid are the Frenchman’s two likely destinations providing he departs this summer. But it is unclear whether they are willing to meet United’s asking price of £150m for a player who’s contract runs out in 2021. Whether United will seek to lower their demands is another matter entirely.
So far, Solskjaer has recruited well. Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James are tailored perfectly for Solskjaer’s blueprint of fresh, young British talents with the potential to excel over a period of time at the club. The January signing of Bruno Fernandes is turning out to be a steel after just two games and the club have expressed firm interests in the likes of Jack Grealish, James Maddison and Jadon Sancho, players who fit the criteria perfectly.
This summer is critical for the club as a whole and its vitally important United do not allow themselves to be wrapped up in a series of uncertainty with regards to player recruitment. The United hierarchy must exert some strength and ruthlessness this summer if they are to match both Liverpool and Manchester City in the transfer market.
In an ideal world, Solskjaer would love to build his side around the qualities of Pogba, tie him down to a new contract and build from there, but its all turned sour with the player and his agent rejecting such an option. We haven’t heard from Pogba since he stated his desire to accept new challenges with the midfielder only providing updates of his recovery from injury on Instagram. Certainly, United fans would like some clarification from the player himself, but his silence only indicates his agreement with his agent’s intentions.
United must rid themselves of all that toxicity and focus their attentions on recruiting the right players to take the club forward, James Maddison and Jack Grealish are more than adequate replacements especially in the creative department – an area where United have flattered to deceive all season. Maddison and Grealish both provide the cutting edge in the final third United so desperately desire and are both firing on all cylinders so far this season. These are the kind of characters and personalities United should be prioritizing.
It remains to be seen whether Pogba will put on a United shirt again this season. Not even Solskjaer himself knows for definite. A move away from the club this summer is probably best for all parties involved.