Sometimes it just isn’t meant to be.
When Manchester United broke the world record to sign Paul Pogba in the summer of 2016 it was supposed to a turning point. The Red Devils had reportedly pipped neighbours Manchester City to his signature in a move that showed they still had it.
With José Mourinho now at the helm they had the x-factor in the dugout again. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimović added to what was, on paper at least, a decent squad.
But as we head into the 2019 summer transfer window, the only name from that quartet still to remain at Old Trafford is Pogba. And his time in Manchester appears to be coming to an end if reports are to believed.
Mourinho tried to get the best out of the World Cup winner. The Portuguese tactician tried different variations in midfield hoping to finally land on a dynamic that helped Pogba dominate the middle third. He failed, despite fielding his No.6 with different partners.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Mourinho’s successor, initially appeared to have done what the three-time Premier League winning manager failed to do. Just after the babyfaced former assassin was appointed, something about Pogba’s game just clicked and he went on a ruthless run.
He scored nine goals and assisted six more in 12 matches. However, it was nothing more than a burst. Following that patch, Pogba involved himself in just two goals in the next 15 games.
And now, according to reports in Spain. he wants to leave Old Trafford and link up with compatriot Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, a team interested in him while he was at Juventus.
Despite Pogba’s inconsistent form he would be a loss to the Red Devils. Yes, penalties propped up his goal tally but that isn’t something he should be punished for. Furthermore, what he brings to a team when he fancies it, is much more than that, as you can see in the graphic above.
While some may feel it’s negligent to let a player of his ability leave before he’s even reached his peak, now could be the time for United to cash in on a player they’ve never truly understood. With the money they make, they could sign a player who fits the system.
Here, we take a look at five possible replacements for Pogba.
The 27-year-old has just 12 months left on his current deal with Spurs. If they beat Liverpool in the Champions League final, Eriksen could decide to stay and build on that with Mauricio Pochettino and Harry Kane. If they lose, however, he might feel it’s time for a change.
Daniel Levy is a difficult negotiator but he is by no means stupid. If United take the majority of the Pogba money and throw it the way of Eriksen, the Spurs chairman is likely to cash in on the Dane.
He may not be a dribbler like the man he’d be replacing, as highlighted by the fact he completes just 0.58 per 90 compared to Pogba’s 1.79, he is just as creative on the ball, averaging slightly more open-play key passes.
The Red Devils would lose that drive in midfield but they’d add someone who is more of a consistent threat. It’s a fair trade-off. Another positive to work in Eriksen’s favour is that he knows the Premier League, meaning the adaption period would be minimal.
Linked with Liverpool, Spurs and Borussia Dortmund recently, perhaps Old Trafford could be Brandt’s next destination. The 23-year-old is believed to have a £25million release clause in his deal this summer, making him one of the bargains of the transfer window, and he could be exactly what United are after.
He started life as a winger but under Peter Bosz he’s been deployed as a box-to-box midfielder. It’s in this new role that the Germany International has really caught the eye.
It’s a role that suits him. It plays to his strengths meaning he’s able to express himself on the ball as well as impact the game in the final third with his off the ball movement. He could play at the tip of the diamond if that is the system Solskjær wants to use. Alternatively, he could play as one of the centre-midfielders.
Though he looks slight, he’s got a presence about him and wins 50 per cent of his aerial duels. A handy player to have in midfield.
Aouar just oozes class. The 20-year-old has been pulling the strings for Lyon for some time now and gets better with every passing year. There’s a bit of Pogba about him in the way he can carry the ball and beat a man, though he isn’t as powerful as the United man. He’s more nimble but just as effective.
He can pick a pass, he can break the lines and he chips in with goals, too. He found the back of the net six times in Ligue 1 this season which is by no means a bad return for a player who is considered by many to be more of a creator.
Aouar wouldn’t be cheap but no player ever is when Jean-Michel Aulas is involved. He is, however, worth it. He’s a long-term investment who could be pulling the strings in midfield for the next decade.
Just like Tielemans is. Tipped for great things from an early age, it did appear as though his career had plateaued after a move to a transitional Monaco side. In his debut season in France he failed to reach the heights of his final campaign with Anderlecht.
The 2018/19 season was better to the Belgian but with Monaco struggling in Ligue 1, he was sacrificed to bring in a more experienced midfielder. He made the loan move to Leicester City with Adrien Silva moving in the opposite direction.
Many were intrigued to see how the 22-year-old would do in England. Very few anticipated that he would be as good as he was. He netted three goals and chipped in with four assists in just 1,092 minutes of Premier League action.
A goal threat, a creator and he’s progressive, playing 33 per cent of the 53 passes he attempts per 90 forward. He’s got it all.
Havertz is having his breakout season. The 19-year-old, unleashed in a similar way to Brandt in Bosz’s new look system, has thrived in front of goal. His average of 0.51 goals per 90 is the best on the list, it’s the best in the Bundesliga when looking at goalscorers, too.
He started life as a winger so is used to beating players. This trait aids him in central areas and he’s making the most of it, completing 1.54 successful dribbles per 90. He’s got the vision to split defences, averaging at least one open-play key pass per game.
He’s not as creative as other potential Pogba replacements but he makes up for that with goals. An ideal No.10 for Solskjær, the Red Devils would just need to get the ball to the Germany International and there’d be chaos.