Sometimes, in order to move forward, you have to go backward. And if that means selling arguably your best player, then so be it.
It’s something Manchester United are going to have to front up to sooner rather than later if they’re to progress as a club.
Paul Pogba returned to Old Trafford for a then world-record fee of £89.3million in 2016. He arrived with a point to prove having forced his way out in 2012 in order to get first-team football. The stage was set for him to be the poster boy of this United side.
But despite the odd standout performance, he hasn’t dominated as he did with Juventus. The narrative was he was being used incorrectly. A signing or two was required for the #Pogback movement to really get going.
New midfielders arrived but Pogba’s form didn’t improve as expected. The system was next on the list of reasons why the Frenchman was failing to hit the heights he did in Turin. Then talk turned to the manager being the problem, with José Mourinho’s tactics supposedly not conducive to getting the best out of the United No.6.
At the time, fans sided with the player and not the self-professed Special One.
It looked like the correct call, too, with Pogba finding the back of the net with regularity under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær. The fact a number of them came via the penalty spot was overlooked to fit the narrative.
However, the tide started to turn for the World Cup winner during the summer when reports emerged that he was looking to force a dream move to Real Madrid. He eventually stayed at Old Trafford but an injury-hit campaign hasn’t helped mend those bridges. Especially with links to the Spanish capital still lingering.
And now Juventus are back in the mix for the 26-year-old. According to Tuttosport, the Serie A champions are prepared to offer cash plus one of Mario Mandžukić, Blaise Matuidi, Daniele Rugani or Emre Can to tempt the Red Devils into parting ways with their most expensive signing.
The report goes on to suggest Juventus view Pogba in the same marketing sphere as Cristiano Ronaldo and that is one of the driving factors behind the pursuit of their former star. It was a talking point in the Italian press recently when Juve revealed the next stage of their long-term plan was to sign a younger Ronaldo, not in terms of playing profile but of a commercial profile.
Pogba ticks this box.
It is also believed the former Bianconeri star still views Turin as his home and is more than happy to make the switch back to Italy, knowing full well it would prevent that dream move to Real Madrid.
Expected goals (xG) – you’ve all probably heard of this metric, but what does it actually mean?@CBrooke_23 caught up with the Data Doctor, @dperdomomeza1, to find out ??#DigestingData#StudsUp#xG pic.twitter.com/cCqT6RWBhe
— Football Whispers (@FB_WHISPERS) November 8, 2019
With Pogba eyeing up a move elsewhere, you could argue his heart isn’t in it at United and, right now, the Red Devils need players prepared to run through walls to get the club back on track.
In the past, the 20-time champions of England may have been able to accommodate luxury players but not now. With Solskjær and his team scrapping for a top-four finish, every player counts. And if Pogba’s head is elsewhere then it’s time for United to cash in and move on.
Countless other teams have done so over the years when it’s clear a player isn’t giving their all in an attempt to force through a move. If handled properly, it won’t weaken the Red Devils and they could actually come out of this saga looking strong.
The uncertainty surrounding a star player is never welcomed, it’s considered even more of a distraction when the team is struggling, as United currently are. The circus surrounding the France international isn’t going to die down, either. Not until Pogba starts replicating his international form on a domestic basis or he gets a move away from Old Trafford.
If it hasn’t already, patience will soon run out. And in what is the reactionary world of football, Pogba’s been lucky to have been afforded a lot more time than many others. But time may be up for him at Old Trafford.
Selling your best player may seem like a bizarre way to progress but it might be what is required for United to get back on track.