Paul Pogba has been linked with a move away from Manchester United (it feels like) since day one. Clashes with José Mourinho, concerns about the direction of the squad, and agent Mino Raiola stirring things up on social media have all contributed to a transfer rumor clusterfuck that has created the impression that the Frenchman is definitely on the move.
In the past couple of months, however, something interesting has happened. There has been a noticeable “Pogba PR Tour” by the player, manager, and club which has led us to believe that Pogba’s Manchester United journey is very much not over.
Pogba’s season has been hampered by a persistent injury to his ankle, and he’s gone to great lengths to rehab and recover from that injury. His absence from Carrington has prompted familiar, tired criticism about his level of commitment to Manchester United, but is ultimately just noise. He’s allowed to seek out his own professional care outside of the club’s facilities and recover however is most comfortable to him. If he is committed to a future at United shouldn’t we want him to take as much care as possible to recover?
Still, despite his extended absence, Pogba had made his way back to training shortly before football was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in training, he had hoped to reunite with his teammates in action, and play with new star signing Bruno Fernandes for the first time. He recorded a podcast episode with the Official Manchester United Podcast shortly before social distancing enforcement as well, and talked at length about his recovery, his love for the game and the club, and his desire to win trophies in red.
He followed up the pod appearance with a number of social media appearances and challenges with both current and former Reds, including Jesse Lingard and Zlatan Ibrahimović. He again expressed his desire to get back and win trophies with United, leaving us all a bit more hopeful about his future.
COVID-19 is going to have a dramatic effect on football, the transfer market, and the ability of clubs to financially support their squads and squad-building efforts. Manchester United is in relatively good shape considering their by-the-books financial planning, commercial income (for now), and the recent easing of wage burden by player departures. Other clubs may not fare as well, including ones that have previously been linked to Paul Pogba.
Juventus, Pogba’s former club, and Real Madrid, who made a bid last season, have both built up hefty wage bills, and have struggled to push through major transfers even before the football stoppage. United may also be a bit limited in what they can spend this summer, and finding a buyer for Pogba would increase the budget, but getting rid of arguably their best player just to find a replacement in this market would not be ideal. Even if Pogba does try to leave at some point, for the time being both parties could benefit from an extension.
In addition to the uncertainty of other clubs being able to afford Pogba, there has also been a considerable improvement in United’s performances. The arrival of Bruno Fernandes was a huge lift to the midfield, and will help lift some of the creative burden from Pogba’s shoulders. Scott McTominay and Fred have also come along this season, meaning the midfield shopping list could be a lot shorter if Pogba stays. The success of all of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s signings is also a good indicator of the manager’s eye for talent, and building a squad around Pogba seems further along now than it did just a few months ago.
A new contract for Pogba might not sit well with fans had he not made a visible effort to realign himself with the club, and it’s pretty safe to say that his most recent appearances on social media and the Official Manchester United Podcast indicate more than just a temporary commitment to the club. In fact, given other circumstances surrounding Manchester United and football in general, a new contract may be exactly what all parties involved want.