Paul Pogba’s future still has big question marks over it but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves credit for how he has managed an unwanted situation for every football manager.
On the eve of Manchester United’s Champions League elimination last month, Paul Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola said the Frenchman was ‘unhappy’ to Old Trafford. He told Tuttosport ‘the best solution for all concerned is if he (Pogba) moves in the next window’.
Since the public outburst, Pogba has regained his place in the United side, playing well and scoring an important winner at Burnley on Tuesday night as the Red Devils moved three points clear of rivals Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.
Pogba is approaching the final year of his contract and it remains likely that he will leave United in the summer, but it looks like he has new-found motivation and what better way to leave the club than with a Premier League medal in his back pocket?
The lads have that to play for when they take to the pitch later today against Liverpool. There’s a lot of football to play but at least it finally looks like United are in the mix.
Former Manchester United captain describes the way in which Solskjaer has managed the situation as ‘masterful’ — and we couldn’t agree more. I think most United fans accept that Pogba wasn’t the player many thought (some still think…) he was, but the least he can do is work hard towards driving us forward for the remainder of the season.
“To me, when his agent did that, it was one blow too far,” Neville said on Sky Sports. “And he always seems to pop up the agent — and Paul doesn’t, I have to say that, he doesn’t say that he wants to leave the club — but his agent does pop up when something goes bad for the club or when the club is at its lowest ebb in a season. It’s just not acceptable.
“However, we had the debate on Monday Night Football about two months ago that Pogba, to get in this Manchester United team, it was always going to be Fred and McTominay and Fernandes, that’s the preferred three in midfield. Pogba would have to play off the left in the front three. And he [Carragher] said he couldn’t play there!
“I know he played in midfield on Tuesday night but in the last couple of weeks there is no doubt that Pogba is starting to have an influence on matches to the equal level of Fernandes, he’s starting to look like the player that Paul Pogba can be. And [looking at Carragher on the virtual call], you can roll your eyes all you want in that top corner! Pogba will play off the left at Anfield, it will be Fred, McTominay and Fernandes in midfield.
“And they have Paul Pogba until the end of the season and [that’s] the right time to review. Paul Pogba playing like he has done these last three weeks… he keeps heading it clear from his own box. Every time Manchester United clear one in their own box from a set-piece I would say more often than not it’s Paul Pogba that’s doing it.
“He’s contributing in terms of the final third now. He’s looking like he’s simplified his game and showing more discipline. He showed a lot of discipline at Burnley. He looks like he’s switched on and I think he’s got the bit between his teeth and he sees where Manchester United are in the league and he thinks, ‘this isn’t a bad bunch of players that I’m now playing with’.
“They’re obviously more confident. He might be thinking that the glass is half full at United at this moment in time and he’s certainly starting to have a growing influence in the last few weeks. It’s definitely his best performances of the season in the last few weeks and I think at Anfield he will be important because it’s a tough place to go and he’ll have to take the ball and he’ll take the ball to Alexander-Arnold in that right channel and he’ll give him different types of problems from what a normal winger would do.
“I must admit, the way we handled the Pogba situation with Raiola a few weeks ago was emotion because we see it from the outside. The way Ole handled the Raiola comments was masterful, really. He knew he was going to have him at least until the end of the season, he’s poured cold water over it and he’s now got him performing and proven to have handled that situation really well.
“So I would say Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves real credit for how he’s dealt with Paul Pogba in the last couple of months. It could have easily blown up, going out of Europe and his agent making those comments, but he handled it brilliantly and his man-management of that situation incredibly well.
“It was interesting listening to Micah Richards a couple of weeks ago about how he (Pogba) needs the love. Paul Pogba does feel like he should be playing in the best team in Europe, I think he genuinely believes that, he believes he should be competing for the best trophies, he’s confident in his own ability.
“And I think the reason you’ve seen him step up in the last couple of weeks is, obviously, the team’s playing better, I think they are a little bit more in sync with each other. He’s playing alongside some seriously good players there: Cavani, Martial, Rashford, Greenwood, Fernandes are really good players; any team in the country, they’re decent players.
“And then I actually think, you look at [Darren] Fletcher’s role at Manchester United – that’s McTominay. That’s what McTominay’s now doing for Manchester United. So [Pogba has] got people behind him like Fred and McTominay and Matic who are doing all of that groundwork, the ugly work, and it’s giving them protection in front of Maguire and Bailly or Lindelof, and that four is providing a really good, sound foundation for the rest of the team.
“Pogba is playing in a team that is growing in confidence, he’s growing in confidence, the maturity in his performances is growing in the last few weeks. I’m not sure it would be down to Darren, he’s only been there two or three weeks, I think it has been growing for three or four weeks, I don’t think that impact would be that instant.”
A good performance from Pogba against the Scousers is what we’re looking for next. I reckon he will start in midfield with Fred, Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes.
Liverpool are there for the taking at Anfield. It’s not often you can confidently say that.