Solskjær needs a dressing room free of Pogba as it will reduce the player-power factor and bad vibes.
Paul Pogba is a World Cup winner. Manchester United fans, however, give a hoot about what Pogba has achieved for France. His performance has been patchy, to put it mildly, for United, a club that had coughed up the then world record fee of £89 in 2016 to land him from Juventus. United also pay him £290,000 every week. Pogba has failed to turn up, especially in big games.
From United’s perspective, it absolutely doesn’t matter whether Pogba has won the World Cup or the Milk Cup. Jose Mourinho had brought him to make an impact. The 26-year-old is said to have made a negative impact in the dressing-room. He was a reason why Mourinho’s third season at Old Trafford fell apart. The day the Portuguese was sacked as United manager, Pogba had posted a cryptic, classless tweet—“Caption this!”—alongside a picture of himself adopting a knowing look. He raised his game after Ole Gunnar Solskjær arrived. The new manager didn’t have Mourinho’s personality and tried to keep the club’s most expensive buy in good humour. But as Zinedine Zidane became the Real Madrid manager and made the Pogba overture, the United midfielder went back to square one, performance-wise, and started to glorify the Madrid club and its boss.
“Like I have always said, Real Madrid is a dream for anyone. It’s one of the biggest clubs in the world. There’s also Zidane as a coach and it’s a dream for anybody who likes football,” Pogba had said during the March international break. It could have been the end of Pogba at United if Sir Alex Ferguson were in charge. But the Red Devils are now fallen giants, with a lightweight manager manning the dug-out.
Recently, Pogba once again hinted a move away from his present club. “Like you said, there’s a lot of talking and a lot of thinking as well. For me I have been for three years in Manchester and have been doing great; some good moments and some bad moments, like everybody. Like everywhere else. After this season and everything that happened this season, with my season being my best season as well. I think for me it could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else. I’m thinking of this; to have a new challenge somewhere else,” he told reporters in Tokyo.
United finished sixth in the Premier League last season and will play Thursday night football, the Europa League, this term. Pogba, on the other hand, wants Champions League football. But unlike David De Gea, he has preferred not to keep his counsel. That a player is publicly deriding United shows how far this great club has fallen off their perch. Ed Woodward, the club’s executive vice-chairman, is reportedly willing to pay £500,000-per-week to keep the misfiring, overrated midfielder at Old Trafford. Woodward, a specialist in signing up new noodles partners, seldom looks beyond shirt sales and Pogba remains a lucrative option. Solskjær doesn’t have the aura of a big manager. Maybe, reluctantly he toes the line.
Back in December last year, Mourinho reportedly had branded Pogba “a virus” in the dressing-room. “You don’t play. You don’t respect players and supporters. And you kill the mentality of the good honest people around you. You are like a person with a flu, with a virus in a closed room; you pass that virus to the others,” Mourinho was alleged to have told Pogba. The then United manager had also benched the enfant terrible. In 2003, when David Beckham’s eye was cut by a flying Sir Alex boot, the former’s time at his boyhood club was up, notwithstanding his superstar status. United under their present dispensation sided with the player in a player-manager feud. Pogba’s commercial viability was always greater than Mourinho, who is 56 years old and past his prime as a manager. It probably clinched the deal for the former.
United are progressing at a snail’s pace towards the proposed squad overhaul. Solskjær wanted new players to arrive by July 1, when the squad will return for pre-season. So far only Daniel James has arrived in a £15million move from Swansea. United, out of the Europe’s elite competition, will have to make do with the also-rans. A lot will depend on Solskjær’s ability to improve the young players. It’s going to be a lengthy process. United can forget about winning the Premier League title in the next four-five years. At the moment, even a top-four finish next season looks difficult, although Chelsea are hit with a transfer ban and they have lost their most prized possession; Eden Hazard.
It’s arguable if Solskjær is the right man to preside over the United overhaul. But he certainly needs a dressing-room free of Pogba, as it will significantly reduce the player-power factor and negative vibes. In 95 appearances over three seasons, Pogba has scored 24 goals and made 23 assists. He is dispensable and something between £120million and £130million should be good business.