Wednesday 23 October 2019

Manchester United's Paul Pogba stirs pot by hinting at desire to play for Real Madrid

Manchester United’s Paul Pogba. Photo: PA
Manchester United’s Paul Pogba. Photo: PA

James Ducker

Paul Pogba has risked antagonising Manchester United by admitting that it would be a "dream" to join Real Madrid.

Pogba wanted to leave United under Jose Mourinho, who stripped the France midfielder of the vice-captaincy and later branded the player "a virus" during a dressing-room tirade.

Pogba's form and mood have improved dramatically since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took temporary charge following Mourinho's firing and he believes the Norwegian deserves the manager's job on a permanent basis.

Real lost out to United for Pogba when he returned to Old Trafford in a then world-record £89 million move from Juventus in 2016. But Zinedine Zidane, who is back in charge at the Bernabeu 10 months after quitting the club in the wake of a third successive Champions League victory, remains a keen admirer of his compatriot.

Pogba, who has also been linked with Barcelona, said the prospect of playing under Zidane at Real was tantalising.

"Like I have always said, Real Madrid is a dream for anyone. It's one of the biggest clubs in the world," said Pogba, speaking before France's Euro 2020 qualifiers against Moldova and Iceland.

"There is also Zidane as a coach and it's a dream for anybody who likes football. For now, I am at Manchester. We don't know what the future holds. I'm at Manchester and I'm happy."

Ed Woodward, United's executive vice-chairman, has steadfastly refused to entertain a sale of Pogba, rebuffing the player when he asked to leave last summer, and Solskjaer has sought to build his team around the 25-year-old.

Pogba has two years to run on his existing contract, although the club have an option to extend that until June 2022.

The Frenchman says United's players lost confidence and stopped enjoying football under Mourinho but that the mood had been transformed by Solskjaer.

"Of course we want him to stay," Pogba said of the caretaker manager.

"The results have been great. I've a great relationship with him, he has a great relationship with the players."

Meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku has become the fourth United player to pull out of international duty and return to the club.

Lukaku has been ruled out of Belgium's games with Russia and Cyprus with a foot injury that forced him to miss the FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Wolves.

Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial have left the England and France camps respectively due to injuries, while Victor Lindelof is not playing for Sweden during the international break for personal reasons.

Nemanja Matic will not play in either of Serbia's matches against Germany and Portugal after only recently returning from a hamstring injury.

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