• It is the most clear sign yet that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must do everything he can to keep hold of his World Cup-winning midfielder this summer.
• According to Spanish newspaper AS, Solskjaer intends to use Pogba’s presence on United’s pre-season tour of Australia, Singapore and China to convince the 26-year-old to stay.
While the circus surrounding Paul Pogba’s transfer situation is once again in full flow, it is easy to overlook Manchester United’s worrying midfield situation. Pogba is looking to force through a move to either Juventus or Real Madrid having grown increasingly unsettled at Old Trafford over the past 12 months. But one glance at United’s pre-season touring party shows an alarming dearth of options in central midfield.
It is the most clear sign yet that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must do everything he can to keep hold of his World Cup-winning midfielder this summer. Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, has already made clear that he is trying to negotiate his client’s exit from United despite two years remaining on his contract.
And on Tuesday, Raiola said: “Hopefully there will be soon a satisfying solution for all parties.”
Pogba leaving, however, is not a satisfactory solution for Solskjaer. According to Spanish newspaper AS, Solskjaer intends to use Pogba’s presence on United’s pre-season tour of Australia, Singapore and China to convince the 26-year-old to stay. Whether his advances fall on deaf ears is yet to be seen.
With United having let Ander Herrera join Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer this summer, the sheer lack of experience at Solskjaer’s disposal must now be of great concern. The manager has Fred to enter the fray, but since his £52million arrival last year he is yet to set the world alight.
James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Daniel James, Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira, who together have an average age of just 20, will be blooded on United’s Australasian tour.
Jesse Lingard, 26, Nemanja Matic, 30, and Juan Mata, 31, who they have just managed to tie down to a new deal, will represent the relatively rare experienced heads in midfield. While McTominay has managed to get a lot of game time under his belt in recent seasons, Solskjaer would prefer the player to progress at his own pace rather than bearing the brunt of filling Pogba’s shoes.
Pereira has shown glimpses but not the consistency while James, who signed from Swansea this summer, comes with a lofty billing but is as yet unproven in the top flight.
So it falls on Pogba to be the only man at the perfect age — the peak of his powers at 26 — and with the experience and leadership to guide this under-performing United outfit.
Pogba recently said he was looking for a new challenge and in actuality that means away from Manchester. But Solskjaer must convince him of the importance of the challenge at Old Trafford. The Frenchman showed flashes of his very best when United were hurtling at full tilt towards the top four following the appointment of Solskjaer in December.
But his, and United’s, form subsequently dipped and transfer talk reared its head not long after. And United’s list of potential replacements certainly would not come with the same pedigree. They are interested in promising Newcastle youngster Sean Longstaff as well as Sporting Lisbon’s Bruno Fernandes, who would command a sizeable fee of £70m.
Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez is also reportedly on Solskjaer’s radar, while £15m-rated Southampton midfielder Mario Lemina is another target.
Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has also been touted, but could set United back £108m - a huge chunk of what they would recoup should Pogba leave. While Pogba has not been at his world-beating best his completing his club-record £89m move in 2016, when he has fired he has dragged the United midfield with him. If Solskjaer can cool the player’s desire to leave and find a way to harness his obvious innate talent on the pitch, then United, and these promising young players around him, would prosper.