Paul Pogba has refused to rule out leaving Manchester United in the near future, and has delivered some pointedly non-committal quotes while on international duty with France. Pogba had been consistently linked with a move to Barcelona during the latter part of the summer, and those rumors persisted even after the Premier League transfer window had closed. With Barça reported to have made a derisory offer in August, and their players now doing the usual routine of talking up a major transfer target in the media, it seems the groundwork is being laid for a serious attempt at signing the player next summer.
Pogba, in fact, did not even commit to being at United until then, hinting to Sky Sports Deutschland that a move was even possible in January.
“There was a lot of talk about it [a transfer], but it was like that. I am under contract at Manchester [United]. My future right now is with Manchester. I have a contract. Currently, I play there, but who knows what will happen in the next couple of months.”
It should be noted that Pogba is also reportedly eyeing a new contract, and this sort of thing, unpleasant as it might be, is par for the course with big players who know their worth. The occasional flirting with other clubs is not limited to players either, as we saw with José Mourinho batting his eyelashes at Paris Saint-Germain 18 months ago, only to be rewarded shortly after with a new contract. And look how well that has turned out.
Speaking of Mourinho, the worst kept secret at United is that part of the reason Pogba is considering his future is his poor relationship with the manager. The France midfielder did little to dispel that notion when asked about the state of affairs between him and Mourinho.
“We have a coach-player relationship. It’s like that. One thing I can promise: I will always give it 100 percent, regardless for which coach. I give it my all for United always. That’s all I can say.”
As Bryan Robson noted recently, Pogba and Mourinho don’t need to be best friends to have a productive working relationship. But this cold war between them has become tedious, and casts neither man in the best light. Mourinho’s negative brand of football and constant shifting of blame has worn through the patience of many. His weird refusal to be complimentary of Pogba after the Frenchman’s impressive World Cup campaign was a sign that he was in danger of becoming a one-trick pony of man-management whose one trick no longer works. Pogba may be inconsistent and occasionally frustrating, but there’s an argument to be made that he is a better player now than Mourinho is a manager. If nothing else, only one of them can say with confidence that their best days aren’t behind them. If our own poll is anything to go by, there would only be one winner if fans were asked to make a straight choice between the two.
Alright then. Let's settle it. If it came down to a straight choice between Pogba and Mourinho, who would you keep at #MUFC?— The Busby Babe (@TheBusbyBabe) August 21, 2018
On the other hand, Pogba is fast eroding any goodwill that he may have had just by virtue of being less irritating than Mourinho. It’s understandable that — fresh off a World Cup winning campaign, and with the experience of playing in title-winning sides under managers that trusted him — he would want to get out from under Mourinho. But truth be told, his performances have not been good enough often enough to justify this sort of teasing in the media. The season is only 4 matches old, and one could make the case that Pogba has been anonymous in half of those.
Pogba is now a captain of the club, and these sort of comments after the window has closed do neither United nor himself any favors. That said, at many other elite clubs where the manager was both delivering poor results and alienating the best player, he’d have been replaced. Unfortunately for United, the man that would be tasked with making this sort of major organizational decision is an overpromoted investment banker who now fancies himself a football man, and who is also carrying out his own cold war with Mourinho.
What a mess.