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12.07.2019 05:30

Man Utd must cut losses with Pogba to avoid another substandard season

It goes without saying that the 2019-20 campaign will be a huge challenge for Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. With plenty of headaches to solve and lots of restructuring to take place, perhaps this is the best time for United to cut their losses with Paul Pogba and move on.

At first glance, understandably, the thought of Pogba’s departure may seem like it’ll just further weaken an already lacklustre squad. But a closer inspection of what the French World Cup winner has produced over the past three seasons since his return to the red side of Manchester paints a very different picture.

It would be wrong to say that he hasn’t had his moments in a United shirt, with his brace in the Manchester derby win over City in their 2017-18 league clash at the Etihad being one of the few highlights of his second stint at Old Trafford. However, those displays have been more of an exception as opposed to the norm, with Pogba struggling for consistency as his team’s talisman and the club’s record £89 million signing.

Perhaps the burden of expectation to perform in a struggling team desperate to return to their glory days meant that he was always destined for failure. Granted that he’s been successful with Juventus and France, but was he the main man in either of those sides? Simply put, no. Juventus are likely to continue their almost decade-long Serie A domination, while France are probably beginning a cycle of supremacy in internationals with a galaxy of stars at their disposals.

Not being able to fulfill the role of a talisman or a few underwhelming performances in isolation could have been accepted by the United hierarchy, but when a player begins to consistently undermine any club – let alone one of the biggest in the world – while being inconsistent on the pitch, there should only be one outcome. Pogba through his agent has already undermined two managers in his three years at the club and who knows what can of worms he’ll open with another year at United.

Paul Pogba during a Premier League match against Chelsea

United legend and one of the club’s most exemplary captains, Roy Keane was infamously ushered out the door by Sir Alex Ferguson when the Scotsman deemed that the negatives the Irishman brought to the team had started to far outweigh the positives. Needless to say, if United can cope with Keane, a seven-time Premier League champion’s departure and manage to still thrive; contemplating life without Pogba shouldn’t give them many sleepless nights.

After all, it’s not like today’s United are the juggernaut that one associates with the side which Keane was a part of. The United team that Pogba’s been a part of has been closer to sixth than the league summit. In his three seasons with United, the Red Devils have finished sixth twice, second once and won the League Cup as well as the Europa League.

Is that a fair return from the club’s record signing? Maybe. But as alluded to when a player continuously undermines his manager through interviews and their agents, it’s time to cut losses, lest we forget it was Sir Alex who built his dynasty at the club on the principle of no player being bigger than the manager. A lot of United’s problems in the past few years can even be traced back to their abandonment of these very same principles.

Jose Mourinho instructs Paul Pogba during a Premier League match

For all of Jose Mourinho’s faults, identifying Pogba as a ‘virus’ and his concerns for the effects he has on the team wasn’t one of them. Add to that, his agent Mino Raiola – a person Sir Alex once called a shitbag – and suddenly United find themselves in this unholy union that’s clouded with constant speculation of divorce, which is fueled further by the player and agent alike.

United for their part have been firm on their position of the player being not for sale. An offer that helps them recuperate most of their money though will be hard to turn down. Having said that, who in Europe can afford to have a mercurial and high-maintenance talent like Pogba in the team? Juventus are already stocked heavily in the midfield area and Real Madrid need to sell players to generate funds before even thinking of a bid.

What happens next, of course, is anybody’s guess but the one certainty that comes with the 26-year-old Frenchman is speculation. And destabilizing speculation that can affect team harmony is precisely what United must do without heading into another big season.

Words: Andre Pitts
Images: PA