Wednesday 21 August 2019

Jason Burt: 'Patchy Pogba owes it to Solskjaer to commit to cause'

Real ambition: While on international duty Paul Pogba said it would be a ‘dream’ to join Real Madrid. Photo: PA
Real ambition: While on international duty Paul Pogba said it would be a ‘dream’ to join Real Madrid. Photo: PA

Jason Burt

The dance has begun again. "Real Madrid is a dream for any kid or footballer and especially with Zidane," Paul Pogba said.

"He has always said that, after Manchester, Madrid has always interested him," Zinedine Zidane responded. We have seen this choreography before.

Player flutters his eyelashes; club respond and a summer transfer saga unfolds. Manchester United will hope, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer argued, that there is no co-ordination involved in this one and that Pogba was simply being "a very nice and polite man" who was responding to a "general question".

Maybe so. But it sounded more like an unnecessary flirtation from Pogba - while on international duty, of course - and he will have known the reaction his comments would elicit. It is part of the power he holds and it is something that United could do with nipping in the bud.


Having effectively backed Pogba by removing Jose Mourinho as manager, it feels like the club is owed a debt by him and other United players.

The club have understandably backed Solskjaer after the restorative effect he has had on their fortunes, and Pogba needs to back his manager also.

The Norwegian has been unequivocal in his support of the 26-year-old, who he first coached as United reserve team manager during the midfielder's initial spell at the club, and Pogba should return that support.

Even when Solskjaer was with the Norwegian club Molde last summer, he spoke of how United should build their team around Pogba and, despite the improvements in the player's form since Mourinho went, he still has much to do.

There have been flashes but little consistency and returning to face Wolves tonight is a reminder of the last time the two sides met - with Pogba anonymous in the FA Cup quarter-final defeat.

No one should doubt Pogba's talent but there is a maddening lack of consistency; he blows hot and cold.

Maybe that is the way he will always be but, having gone back to United for a then world-record fee of £89m in 2016 he has not yet provided an adequate enough return for that huge investment.

Pogba is contracted until 2021, although that is a little misleading given that there is a 12-month option to extend. So, effectively there are three more years left on his deal after this season.

If it had just been the two, then a red light would be flashing as United would not want their highest-profile player to go into the final year of his contract.

Solskjaer believes that Pogba is happy and settled so Madrid, it would appear, are therefore banking on him not signing a new contract. That is their modus operandi, as can be witnessed by what is happening with Eden Hazard at Chelsea. He made it clear after last summer's World Cup that he wanted to go to Madrid but had two years left at Stamford Bridge.

So, Hazard has waited and is expected to go now, for a lesser fee, albeit €100m. But it is not the same with Pogba.

Hazard has been at Chelsea since 2012 and even the club's most diehard fans would not begrudge the 28-year-old a move.

That €100m appears to be the ceiling set by Madrid president Florentino Perez this summer. It would only be broken if there was any indication that Neymar or Kylian Mbappe could leave Paris St-Germain but that is highly unlikely.


So, despite Zidane wanting two more midfielders and despite the fact he would love to sign Pogba, it is not one that is likely to happen in the next transfer window without something dramatic occurring - such as the player demanding a move.

So now is the time for the club to test his resolve. There were talks about talks over a new contract last September and again at the turn of the year. United should kill this one off by renegotiating.

Their priority has to be David de Gea, out of contract at the end of next season, and moving Alexis Sanchez on, but it would also be a statement for Pogba to recommit.

"I am happy at United but you never know what will happen tomorrow," Pogba also said.

He can add a bit more certainty by showing commitment to the cause and stopping this dance just as the music has started. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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