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Paul Pogba Stalemate a Pain for Manchester United Manager and Fans

Paul Pogba Stalemate a Pain for Manchester United Manager and Fans

Tuesday, 9 July, 2019 - 06:15
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba. (AFP)
London - Paul Wilson
Ole Gunnar Solskjær will seek face‑to-face discussions with Paul Pogba before Manchester United make any decision over the unsettled midfielder’s future. Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola created a stir just before United’s pre-season trip to Australia by indicating his client’s “willingness to move on”, yet though his comments to the Times were interpreted as an attempt to force the club’s hand and bring about a transfer, the language was carefully nonspecific. The player has been in New York for the past week, even posting videos of himself keeping fit in Central Park as late as Friday, though United expect him back in time to join the rest of the squad on Sunday’s flight to Perth.

Solskjær has been put in a difficult position by the timing of Raiola’s remarks, although Pogba himself said something similar a month ago, and it is believed United would be willing to let the French international leave if a satisfactory offer was received despite their outward stance of holding him to his contract. United supporters are also beginning to tire of their record signing’s apparent desire to be somewhere else and Solskjær is aware there would be no great outcry if the money is right, though he is understood to want to speak to the player about his future first rather than deal with intermediaries.

The problem with a mooted move to Real Madrid or back to Juventus is likely to be money. United paid about £89m for Pogba in 2016 and believe that at this moment, with the player only 26 and with two years left on his contract, there is a chance of getting all that back and perhaps a little more.

United sources have let it be known a fee of £150m might secure a deal, though that prices Juventus out of the equation straight away and even Real Madrid are highly unlikely to part with that sort of sum for a player whose club performances in the past couple of seasons simply do not justify it. Were an offer of that size tabled United would listen, a sale could soon be agreed and there would be no need for Raiola to do any agitating.

Pogba’s agent breaking cover in the way he has can be interpreted as an attempt to irritate United and persuade all concerned a quick sale might be best, even at a reduced price, or conversely a ploy aimed at extracting more money from his present club to keep an ostensibly in-demand player at Old Trafford.

Solskjær knows only too well that if Pogba does stay, this sort of thing is likely to recur on a regular basis, and though the annoyance is more with the agent than the player, the two go together. While United do have the option of forcing Pogba to honor his contract, a player who so clearly wants out would inevitably be a disruptive dressing-room influence when the manager is attempting to build a new team ethos, and just as important his transfer value would shrink. A move this summer appears more likely than not, but United have no wish to let Pogba go cheaply or be seen to be doing Raiola’s bidding.

Player exchanges have been mentioned as a way of resolving the financial impasse, with Real Madrid more than happy to let Gareth Bale go as part of a package, though Solskjær is probably right to suspect that solution would suit Zinedine Zidane far more than it suits United.

Whatever the future holds for Pogba, the United midfield is a fluid concept at the moment, with the club being variously linked with Leicester’s James Maddison, Atlético Madrid’s Saúl Ñíguez, Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Newcastle’s Sean Longstaff. Of that quartet Longstaff appears the most likely and readily available, a capture that would possibly allow Nemanja Matic to leave for Italy, though a player United imagined might be theirs for around £25m a week or two ago is now being quoted at up to twice the price.

The reason is the £50m United parted with to sign Aaron Wan-Bissaka, though the former Crystal Palace full-back at least had a solid season of impressive football under his belt. Longstaff has nine Premier League appearances to his name, and if he goes for anything like £50m it would make even Pogba’s fee look a bargain.

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