A successful transfer window for Manchester United: The Ingredients

Coming into this season, there were four major areas where Manchester United needed to strengthen in order to firstly challenge, and then, sustain a possible title challenge.

This article looks at the transfer business that the club have done, and the sort of signings they still need to get over the line for it to be considered a successful transfer window.

Jadon Sancho: Ever since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo a dozen years back, United have lacked a truly world class right winger. Antonio Valencia did a decent job for a few years, before there were some expensive signings in Angel Di Maria, Memphis Depay, players who came in with a big reputation but ultimately failed to light up the Theatre of Dreams. 

However, that search seems to have come to an end with the purchase of Jadon Sancho, an electrifying prospect who has wowed Bundesliga audiences over the past three seasons and had struck up a lethal partnership with Norwegian forward Erling Braut Haaland.

Signed for £73 million on an initial five year contract, he is potentially the bargain of the decade, capable of playing on either wing as well as centrally, able to score and assist with either foot and at the age of only 21, has the potential to lock down the right wing for the next decade.

Raphael Varane: While Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are a competent enough centre back pairing, there are fundamental weaknesses in Lindelof’s game that makes the possibility of winning a title rather remote with him and Maguire as the defensive base.

Varane, a French World Cup winning centre back, is supposedly on the verge of completing a move to the club for a fee in the region of £43 to £48 million. While this is not yet a done deal, reliable journalists from Spain, Italy and England have reported that negotiating a fee with Real Madrid should not be a problem.

Varane is a proven champion and his style of play complements Harry Maguire perfectly, and at the age of 28, he is in his prime and would bring an immediate injection of quality in central defence.

Kieran Trippier: As discussed in an earlier article, the right back situation is a bit more tricky because while United do not require a first team signing in that position, Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s workload needs to be managed and thus depth is required.

It would seem that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not believe Diogo Dalot is good enough for United in the long term and there have been links to Kieran Trippier, formerly of Burnley and Tottenham Hotspur and currently a La Liga champion with Atlético Madrid.

Trippier is very versatile, capable of playing at either fullback position as well as a wingback in a back three. He is adept at crossing and is a threat from set pieces as well, especially from close range freekicks. His arrival is largely dependent on Dalot leaving, most likely to AC Milan on a loan with an obligation to buy deal.

Central/defensive midfielder: This is the one position in which the club has been linked to multiple players without any truly concrete movement towards finalizing a deal. It is also the only position where they would most likely have to sell in order to buy, with Paul Pogba the most likely to leave having not signed a new contract, or shown any willingness to do so either. If he were to leave, Paris Saint-Germain would be the most likely destination for a fee around the £55-60 million mark.

There were reports of advanced talks with Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga at the beginning of this month but those have not progressed further. Saul Niguez, Ruben Neves and Declan Rice are the other possibilities, though it appears the club is seeking to clarify Pogba’s situation before committing to making any signings. Out of these, Declan Rice would likely be the most expensive option while Saul and Neves would be relatively cheaper.

There is also uncertainty about Jesse Lingard’s future at the club, with there being not much clarity about whether United want to let him go, and if so, for how much, considering his contract is up next year.

Whatever the club end up deciding, it is imperative that a defensive midfielder is signed especially since there have been reports that Solskjaer wants to shift to a more attacking 4-3-3 formation, a shift which necessitates the need for a player who is comfortable both as a screen for the defence as well as a passer who can break through the lines.

In terms of loan signings, Facundo Pellistri has shown a willingness to go back to Alaves and continue his development. Teden Mengi has agreed personal terms with Derby County and it is up to the club to finalize the duration of his loan. James Garner impressed on loan last season at Nottingham Forest and a loan at a top flight club seems to be the next logical step in his progression. Brighton are a possible destination, and winger Daniel James could be offered as part of a loan. Brentford is another option, though Solskjaer isn’t expected to make a decision until after the pre-season fixtures have been completed.

In terms of the goalkeeping situation, Tom Heaton has been signed as a third choice option and while it is not ideal to have David De Gea on the bench considering his wages, it does not appear that the club can find a buyer for him in this cash strapped market.

Sancho, Varane, a defensive midfielder and Trippier are the essential signings the club must look to finalize in an official capacity over the next three weeks before the season starts, with the panic of last summer’s deadline day still fresh in the minds of fans and pundits. Proactiveness does not only help the players to settle in quicker in a different environment, it gives the club the best chance of making a fast start in the league, with a theoretically kind run of fixtures to begin the season, and lay down a marker for the rest of the teams.

Written by Avitaj Mitra

January Review: Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Paul Pogba all had a good month despite mixed results for United

Manchester United played nine matches in January making it just as busy as December, where the same number of matches were played. United started the month with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa in the Premier League, which was a good start to the month. However, a 2-0 defeat in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup at the hands of Manchester City added some disappointment to the month. United then beat Watford 1-0 in the Emirates FA Cup, earning a place in the fourth round against Liverpool. Next came a 0-0 draw against Liverpool in the Premier League, a frustrating match for both teams.

United then came from behind to beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage in the Premier League, putting more pressure on Liverpool this season, which would change as the month grew on. The FA Cup clash with Liverpool was a good match for United, resulting in a 3-2 victory, reaching the fifth round of the competition this season. Following that match, a 2-1 defeat to the worst team in the Premier League, Sheffield United came, which was a disappointment for United. The month was ended with a visit to the Emirates to face Arsenal, which resulted in a 0-0 draw, ending the month in a frustrating manner.

January Statistics:

Nine matches played; five wins, two draws and two defeats. 11 Premier League points won, a place in the fourth and fifth rounds of the Emirates FA Cup. 10 goals scored, eight goals conceded – four clean sheets. United entered 2021 in good form and were looking to get through another tough month in domestic competition. They were knockout of the Carabao Cup at the semi-final stage by Manchester City but reached the fourth and the fifth rounds of the Emirates FA Cup with victories over both Watford and Liverpool. In the league, United struggled at times with a defeat to Sheffield United and draws with Liverpool and Arsenal.

1 January – Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa – Premier League

Goals: Anthony Martial 40′, Bruno Fernandes 62′; Bertrand Traore 58′

Assists: Aaron Wan-Bissaka 40′; Jack Grealish 58′

Manchester United beat Aston Villa 2-1 at Old Trafford in the first Premier League match of 2021. Anthony Martial opened the scoring with a header in the 40th minute of the match (his fifth goal of the season), assisted by Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Villa then equalised in the 58th minute through Bertrand Traore, assisted by Jack Grealish. Minutes later, Paul Pogba was taken down in the box by Douglas Luiz and a penalty was given which Bruno Fernandes stepped up for, scoring his 15th goal of the season. Villa pressure United at the end of the match with United having chances to extend their lead.

6 January – Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City – Carabao Cup

Goals: John Stones 50′, Fernandinho 83′

Assists: N/A

Manchester United were beaten 2-0 by Manchester City in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup at Old Trafford. It was a pretty even first half with United starting well but City soon took control of the match. Both teams had the ball in the back of the net in the first half of the match but none were given. It took City 50 minutes, five minutes into the second half to draw first blood on United with John Stones scoring the first goal of the game. United had chances to get back into the game but did not take them. City doubled their lead through Fernandinho in the 83rd minute, earning a place in the first final of the season. Their go-to trophy.

9 January – Manchester United 1-0 Watford – Emirates FA Cup

Goals: Scott McTominay 5′

Assists: Alex Telles 5′

Manchester United beat Watford 1-0 in the Emirates FA Cup at Old Trafford. Scott McTominay, who captained United in this match, scored the only goal of the game in the fifth minute, assisted by Alex Telles from the corner. There were a few chances throughout the match but United seemed to be out of sorts, as were the visitors. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be happy to see his club into the fourth round of the FA Cup with the draw for that and the fifth round being drawn on Monday evening. United got back to winning ways after being knocked out of the Carabao Cup earlier in the week. Burnley next in the Premier League.

12 January – Burnley 0-1 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: Paul Pogba 71′

Assists: Marcus Rashford 71′

Manchester United beat Burnley 1-0 at Turf Moor in the Premier League. It put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side three points clear of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table. Paul Pogba scored the only goal of the match after playing the ball out to Marcus Rashford on the right with the England forward playing back to the Frenchman whose effort was slightly deflected into the back of the net. Bruno Fernandes did not have the best of matches, but played a part. Anthony Martial will be a worry, coming off injured late into added time. The positivity is that United are top of the league and deserve it.

17 January – Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: N/A

Assists: N/A

Manchester United drew 0-0 with Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League. It was a game of few credible chances. Perhaps the best opportunity was from Bruno Fernandes after United won a free-kick in the first half of the match. The ball dipped towards the top far corner, just missing the target and seeing United frustrated. Marcus Rashford had a chance in the second half with Edinson Cavani splitting away from him, Rashford having the ball and the three defensive players and being marked off the ball with Cavani unmarked and in space which could have resulted in the first goal of the game, if he had it.

20 January – Fulham 1-2 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: Ademola Lookman 5′; Edinson Cavani 21′, Paul Pogba 65′

Assists: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa 5′

Manchester United beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage in the Premier League. Ademola Lookman scored the opening goal in the fifth minute as United saw themselves on the back foot from the start of the match. However, it took 16 minutes for United to get back into the match with Bruno Fernandes launching a ferocious shot on goal, hitting the inside of the post only for Fred to keep the attack in play. Edinson Cavani was the equaliser for United, scoring his fifth goal of the season for his club. Paul Pogba scored what turned into the winner for United, with a sublime finish which was good to see.

24 January – Manchester United 3-2 Liverpool – Emirates FA Cup

Goals: Mason Greenwood 26′, Marcus Rashford 48′, Bruno Fernandes 78′; Mohamed Salah 18′, 58′

Assists: Marcus Rashford 26′, Mason Greenwood 48′; Roberto Firmino 18′, 58’

Manchester United beat Liverpool 3-2 in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup at Old Trafford. Mohamed Salah opened the scoring in the 18th minute of the match with Mason Greenwood equalising just eight minutes later. Marcus Rashford then put United ahead in the 48th minute with Salah striking once more in the 58th minute to level the score. From the bench, Bruno Fernandes found the winner from a free-kick which was such a great strike to beat Alisson for the third time in the match. This victory feels so good, not for Liverpool though. United will face West Ham United at Old Trafford in the next round.

27 January – Manchester United 1-2 Sheffield United – Premier League

Goals: Harry Maguire 64′; Kean Bryan 23′, Oliver Burke 74′

Assists: Alex Telles 64′; John Fleck 23′, John Lundstram 74′

Manchester United were beaten 2-1 by Sheffield United at Old Trafford. It was another bad day for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, who had been knocked off the top spot in the Premier League table by Manchester City on Tuesday evening. Kean Bryan opened the scoring for the Blades in the 23rd minute of the match with Oliver Burke scoring the winner in the 74th minute of the match. Harry Maguire equalised in the 64th minute of the match but in terms of inspiration, United were not up for the challenge in a dreadful evening at the Theatre of Dreams. United will need to pick up the pieces before get face Arsenal on Saturday.

30 January – Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United – Premier League

Goals: N/A

Assists: N/A

Manchester United drew 0-0 with Arsenal at the Emirates in the Premier League. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had the stronger team with Arsenal suffering with a few injuries. It was a game of few credible chances, something that will unnerve United, who have been playing a poor brand of football in their last two matches, resulting in a defeat and a draw. Arsenal will be the happier of thereto teams, winning four points and keeping two clean sheets against United this season. However, the gap between the two teams is still ten points, so Arsenal have a lot of work ahead of them to close the gap.

Luke Shaw – eight appearances (seven starts), 638 minutes, one MOTM award.

January was an impressive month for Luke Shaw. He made eight appearances, starting seven times, playing 638 minutes in total and winning the Man of the Match award in the 0-0 draw against Liverpool at Anfield in the Premier League. Whilst it initially looked like Alex Telles would take the left-back role from Shaw earlier in the season, the English left-back has soon risen in stature to make the position his own. It is good to see him in form again, which has been ruined in the past with injury, fatigue and fitness issues. The player seems to have turned a corner at the club, which is great for both the player and the club.

Harry Maguire – nine appearances (eight starts), 765 minutes, one goal.

The Captain has been one of the most important players for the club in January. He made nine appearances, starting eight times, playing all but 45 minutes for the club in January. Harry Maguire played a total of 765 minutes during January, coming off the bench at half time against Watford in the FA Cup. He scored United’s only goal in the 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United, a former club of the defender. United kept four clean sheets in January, three of those in the Premier League, which was important for United to continue their improvement, which stuttered at the end of the month.

Paul Pogba – eight appearances (eight starts), 720 minutes, two goals and two MOTM awards.

December was a positive month for Paul Pogba, but January was something he built because of the prior month. The Frenchman missed just one match, the FA Cup victory over Watford. Pogba’s best performances in January came in the Premier League, scoring goals against Burnley and Fulham and being named the Man of the Match in both of those matches. Against Aston Villa at the start of the month, Pogba won a penalty, which Bruno Fernandes scored, enabling the Red Devils to win the match which was a great start for the club in January. Pogba will be seeking to make February a positive month for the club too.

Notable Mentions: Eric Bailly, Alex Telles, Scott McTominay

Eric Bailly had a good January, in the matches that he did play in, playing a total of 315 minutes in four appearances during the month and earning one Man of the Match award for his performance against Aston Villa in which United won 2-1. Bailly could be a good partner for Harry Maguire at the club, providing he can stay fit. Alex Telles was another notable mention, making two appearances, playing a total of 172 minutes on the pitch and assisting twice. Scott McTominay was the final notable mention, making eight appearances, playing 453 minutes of football, scoring one goal and winning one Man of the Match award – against Watford.

Who is your Player of the Month for January 2021?

A look at what lies ahead in February…

United will play eight matches in February, one less than in both December and January. United will continue their efforts in the Premier League, facing Southampton (H), Everton (H), West Bromwich Albion (A), Newcastle United (H) and Chelsea (A), also vying to reach the quarter-final of the Emirates FA Cup, providing they beat West Ham United (H). Solskjaer’s side will also play their first matches in the UEFA Europa League, facing Real Sociedad both away and at home in the round of 32 stage of the competition, hoping to reach the round of 16 stage, following their group stage exit from the UEFA Champions League.

2 February – Southampton, Old Trafford – Premier League

6 February – Everton, Old Trafford – Premier League

9 February – West Ham United, Old Trafford – Emirates FA Cup

14 February – West Bromwich Albion, The Hawthorns – Premier League

18 February – Real Sociedad, Anoeta Stadium – UEFA Europa League

21 February – Newcastle United, Old Trafford – Premier League

25 February – Real Sociedad, Old Trafford – UEFA Europa League

28 February – Chelsea, Stamford Bridge – Premier League

Written by John Walker

Opinion: Should Paul Pogba leave Manchester United this summer, who could replace him?

On the 7 December, reporter Fabrizio Romano reported that Paul Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, had claimed that the Frenchman was unhappy and could “no longer express” himself at the club. It was 24 hours before the crucial Champions League tie against RB Leipzig and only 48 hours after Pogba had helped United come back against West Ham in the league.

Since then Pogba’s performances have, arguably, been his best in a United shirt since Ole Gunner Solskjaer first joined the club as interim manager. Raiola had said that it would best if he went in January. He has, however, since backtracked on that claiming that “in January the great players hardly move.” If Pogba does truly want to leave, United will not want to let him go on a free, so 2021 would see Pogba moving on. If that’s the case, who will United replace him with?

Jack Grealish

Jack Grealish was heavily linked with United at the end of the last season, before ending speculation by signing a new five-year contract with Aston Villa. Of course, new contracts mean very little. Often it is just to ensure that the club gets more money from the players suitors. Jack Grealish almost single handily kept Villa from the drop last season and he and his team started this season in inspired form, with the standout 7-2 victory over Liverpool still fresh in all of their fan’s minds. 

Grealish himself was on fire with four goals and six assists in their first seven league games. His goals have dried up a little, not scoring since the end of November, however his side haven’t suffered too much, losing just one of those games and he continues to be highly influential. United are still rumoured to want the player, however, Villa are expected to rebuff any moves in January. If United received a substantial fee for Pogba, they could put all that money towards a move for the Villa captain, who has also forced himself into the England set up as well. With both him and Fernandes on the pitch, the United forwards would receive plenty of chances every game. 

United fans were thrown into a frenzy when they saw Solskjaer talking to Grealish as they left the pitch together last month, but it will take a huge fee to persuade Villa and their wealthy owners to sell. 

A defensive midfielder

Of course, the position that many United fans believe needs an upgrade, is in defensive midfield. United might feel that they have enough options in Pogba’s position (more on that shortly) and decide to use the funds raised to sign a top defensive midfielder. 

If they want a player who has experienced the Premier League but is young enough to make that position his own for many years to come then they have two options available. Wilfred Ndidi and Declan Rice. Both players have made over 100 appearances, both are full internationals and both have burgeoning reputations. West Ham have been much better this season and one big reason for that is Rice. Turning 22 a few days ago, he has made 37 interceptions this season alongside 124 recoveries, highlighting his ability to break up play. His passing is also vastly improved in the last couple of seasons and with the Euro’s pushed back a year, an impressive showing there could inflate his price even more. 

Wilfred Ndidi (24) started this season injured and his return has shown his importance to Brendan Rodger’s Leicester side. In the nine games that he has played, The Foxes have won seven, losing just once. In the nine games other games, they only won four. That Leicester side, you feel, is the blueprint to the balance Solskjaer wants in his side. Ndidi is the ball-winning midfielder, with 82 recoveries in those nine games. Youri Tielemens is the box-to-box midfielder and James Maddison is the Bruno Fernandes of the team. Ndidi allows the other two to do what they need to do in the final third of the pitch, safely knowing that Ndidi will mop anything up in behind them. 

Eduardo Camavinga

More left-field but no less spoken about in the tabloid transfer rumours, is Eduardo Camavinga. If United wanted to make a calculated risk on a young player, then he might be the right fit. Just 18, he made his breakthrough in the Rennes side last season, helping the French side to make the Champions League. He would then make his French national team debut, scoring an overhead kick in his first start. Pogba, himself, lavished the youngster with praise after that goal and United at one point this season were seen as big challengers to Real Madrid for the player. Showing an ability to get forward and also good intelligence in defence, he could be the perfect box-to-box replacement for Pogba. 

United may want to see more goals and assists from him if he was going to be asked to get forward, but at his age there is plenty of time to develop. However, do United want a player who still needs some developing or do they need a player ready to start now? Of course, they could sign him and slowly bed him into the side and use a certain player in the squad that many are crying out to get some game time.

Donny van de Beek

Ah the conundrum of Donny van de Beek. No doubt he is a classy player. He shows that each time he plays. He wants to play forward quickly, one or two touch was the Ajax way after all. However, he hasn’t had that much game time this season. He would fit in that box-to-box midfield position, the position he played for Ajax with so much success, 28 league goals and 21 assists in the last three seasons, shows he can influence the game higher up the pitch. At just 23, he is going to get many, many games at Old Trafford and Gary Neville recently gave an interesting theory on van de Beek. Neville claiming that van de Beek “might have been signed to replace Paul Pogba” could very much be on the money. 

In a way it makes sense. Solskjaer might have known that Pogba wanted to leave back in the summer. On the face of it, van de Beek was a strange summer transfer. It came out of nowhere and van de Beek seemed to be on the brink of moving to Real Madrid. If van de Beek spends the year getting accustomed to England, he could be ready to nail down a first team place come next season. Add in one of the defensive midfielders above and van de Beek could be an integral part of the United team for the next few years. 

The youth team

Of course, maybe United won’t replace him at all. Solskjaer is known for bringing players up from the reserves into the first team. He has handed out numerous debuts and Mason Greenwood and Axel Tuanzebe have both seen an increase in first team action in the last season and a half. United also have a few midfielders who could play that box-to-box midfield position. 

Hannibal Mejbri is highly touted and United fans have been excited about him since his signing from Monaco. James Garner is spending the season on loan at Watford and Solskjaer will be eager to see his development on his return. Ethan Gailbraith received his United debut in that Europa League game vs Astana last season. He signed a fresh three-year deal last October and is seen as someone who could be an unsung player for United in the next few years. United will also be hoping that they can tie down Arnau Puigmal to a longer-term contract, with his deal due to run out this summer. The fear is that he has he sights on a return to Barcelona, which as seen in the past with Gerard Pique, will be hard to prevent. He is currently enjoying his best season with the under 23’s and can also play down the right flank, both in defence and attack. All four of these players are very different to Pogba (most box-to-box midfielders are) and they might be the way Solskjaer goes if he wants to use funds to bolster other areas in the squad. 

Written by Huw Rawlings

The problems with Paul Pogba that need to be solved – a lack of consistency and a lack respect

Paul Pogba left Manchester United as a free agent in the summer of 2012, which at the time was considered a loss for United and then manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Pogba left for Juventus, signing as a free agent which meant that United would only receive compensation for the development of the player whilst he was part of the academy, which stood at £800,000, leaving the club at the age of 19. Pogba made his first team debut for United in the 2011/12 season, making a total of seven appearances, playing in the Premier League, the Carling Cup and the UEFA Europa League – playing a total of 195 minutes of football.

Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola seemed to open his mouth again, negatively (in relation to United) regarding Pogba’s future at the Old Trafford club. He gave the impression that the Frenchman wants to leave the club, which could well be the case. Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano covered the quotes from Italian news source Tuttosport which talked about Erling Braut Haaland and Pogba even talking about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The comments came just over 24 hours before United’s UEFA Champions League clash with RB Leipzig in Germany which is a make or break match for United. Raiola was quoted as saying:

“[Erling Braut] Haaland is like [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic when he was 20. [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer is a good guy but he was wrong when he said that Erling is like [Romelu] Lukaku… it would be better if Solskjaer thought about finding a way to make [Paul] Pogba play like a champion, instead of talking about Haaland.

“Haaland is like a painting, he is like Munch’s Scream because he causes fear in the defenders. He called me after being substituted at 85: he had scored four goals, he wanted to score another. He was furious! He wants to be the best also if he’s playing checkers.

“I can’t talk about Haaland release clause. Rumors say Real Madrid want him? This is not new to me… but he is very happy with Borussia Dortmund. Erling wants to win the UEFA Champions League. When he’ll leave the club, it will be for his ambition and not for money.

“Maybe Juventus could be Pogba’s next club… why not? The relationship between Paul, Juventus and former teammates is excellent. But with the Covid impact, many clubs can’t sign him. For sure, it’s time to leave Manchester United.”

Raiola stated that Solskjaer should be finding a way for Pogba to play like a champion. Surely that would be down to Pogba to do that. Over the past few seasons, Pogba has been average for United which is a problem for both the player and the club. If Pogba was all that his agent thinks that he is, surely United would not have had to sign both Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek over the last two transfer windows (January 2020 and Summer 2020). Gary Neville tweeted on Monday evening, suggesting that Pogba will have know about Raiola’s comments and if not, he should be coming forward with a statement to distance himself.

A lot of United supporters have been less than impressed with Pogba’s performances for the club over the past few seasons. In the 2018/19 season, Pogba scored 16 goals and 11 assists in 47 appearances – which was the best season he has ever had for a club. At the time, it seemed like a defining moment for positivity but turned into what seems like the peak of his career. The following season saw him on the sidelines through injury for the majority of it and this season, he has been less than impressive when he has played. It seems that Pogba sees other people to blame for his demise, when he would be the first person to apportion blame to.

Before Fernandes signed for United, Pogba would most likely be the player that player in the number ten role at the club, which is a position he had played in for a lot of the time under Jose Mourinho. But with Fernandes’ start to life at United, Pogba would have to settle for a role out of that area either in a midfield diamond or a midfield two, playing in a pivot role. This is clearly not good enough for Pogba or his agent. Not that long ago, France manager Didier Deschamps criticised United for how they were treating Pogba only for the player to play in a similar position for France and perform poorly for his country.

Up until today, Tuesday 8 December 2020, Pogba has played 170 times since making his return to the club in the summer of 2016. He has scored 34 goals and 35 assists playing 13,482 minutes of football. Statistically, this means that the Frenchman has offered 0.2 goals per appearance and 0.41 goal contributions (goals and assists) per appearance. He has offered one goal every 397 minutes with a goal contribution every 195 minutes. Some may think there are great stats but for a player that only seems to want to be the main man in the team, the stats are quite poor.

Fernandes has been at United since the end of January, not even spending a full calendar year at the Old Trafford club yet and has better stats than Pogba. The Portuguese midfielder has made 38 appearances for the club, scoring 22 goals and 15 assists in 2,987 minutes of football. This means that Fernandes has scored 0.58 goals per match and 0.97 goal contributions (goals and assists) every appearance. He has scored a goal every 136 minutes, with a goal contribution every 81 minutes. This is why Fernandes is the player that will most often play in the number ten role at the club.

If Pogba wants to take this position, he will need to out perform Fernandes or at least show that he is capable of doing what the Portuguese midfielder does, which does not seem all that likely, in my opinion. It is a shame that this is happening. Pogba seemed excited to return to United four years ago but the summer before last showed that he wanted a change, which also suggests that everything he said in 2016 was just for the sake of saying something, not saying it with meaning. United need to deal with Pogba in the right way, ensuring that they are not lumbered with a player that does not want to be there.

The question would be who would want him and who could afford him? The footballing world is still aiming to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Supporters are just starting to return to matches in small numbers and it will be a long time before clubs start to recover financially from this. Juventus are said to be interested in re-signing the Frenchman but at this moment in time, it seems unlikely that they could afford him without adding a player, or a number of players, in a possible deal. That could easily be scuppered as United will not necessarily want players in exchange for the Frenchman. A cash deal would be next to impossible.

There have been suggestions of Cristiano Ronaldo returning to the Old Trafford club, so if United were interested in making that happen, there could be some interest in the deal but it would not necessarily be a great deal for United, given the age of the Portuguese winger and the fact his resale value will greatly reduce over time so United would be wise to ask for the player plus cash for a deal to happen. Pogba has also been linked to Real Madrid and Barcelona over the past few summers and it would seem that both clubs would find a possible deal for the Frenchman hard to make possible – for the same reason as Juventus.

It is an unfortunate situation for Pogba and United to be in. Pogba’s contract would be set to expire in the summer of 2021 but when he signed his contract in the summer of 2016, there was a clause added for a further year, which has seemingly been activated, although there has been no confirmation from the Old Trafford club regarding this. Ideally, if Pogba wanted to stay at United and ‘finish what he started’, he should get rid of his agent and concentrate on his career not some pipe dream that Raiola has been telling him about – of course, that is just my opinion, not an actual fact. I don’t think Raiola is a positive role model.

Written by John Walker

Paul Pogba described as the ideal gift for Juventus manager Andrea Pirlo

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has been hailed as the ideal gift for new manager Andrea Pirlo after he replaced Maurizio Sarri as the manager of the club after the chain smoker was sacked by the club after their UEFA Champions League exit at the hands of Lyon last week. Pirlo, a club legend will be seeking to put his own touch on the club, aiming to retain the Serie A title next season and pushing for the Champions League once again.

Luca Toni reckons that the United midfielder would be the perfect gift for Pirlo at the club. The Frenchman spent four years at Juventus from the summer of 2012, when they signed the player, a free agent after leaving United. Just four years later, United paid £89 million to re-sign the midfielder under the management of Jose Mourinho. In his first season back at United, the club lifted the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League, of which Pogba could win for the second time with United reaching the semi-final after beating FC Copenhagen 1-0 on Monday evening. Speaking to Tuttosport and reported by The Mirror, Toni said:

“Knowing Andrea, he will start building from midfield. The ideal gift would be Pogba. I don’t know if that’s possible, but it would certainly be the best option.

“Andrea will not be a coach who focuses on defending and counter-attacking. He loves to dominate the ball and will want to impose that on his team.

“I don’t know what system he will use and I don’t think it matters. Andrea is intelligent and flexible.”

Pogba was linked with an exit from United last summer after stating that he wanted a new challenge and was promptly linked with a return to Juventus with Real Madrid also interested in the player. However, this summer, the coronavirus pandemic could be something that stops Pogba from leaving and there has been many reports suggesting that Bruno Fernandes’ arrival has excited the player has apparently done a U-turn and now wants to stay at the club, although nothing has been confirmed by the club or the player. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels that Pogba’s future lies in Manchester though. Speaking ahead of the 1-0 victory over FC Copenhagen, The Sun reported the manager as saying:

“Since coming back from injury he has been a delight. He has worked really hard, he is happy and he is playing well.

“We are going to see the best of Paul in the next couple of seasons, I’m sure. And I’m looking forward to seeing him grow with this team.

“He will have to be one of the leaders, one of the main figures, because he is just coming to his peak time as a footballer at 27. I am really looking forward to working with him.”

This season has been a mixed one for Pogba with him spending a lot of time on the sidelines with two separate ankle injuries, one of which required surgery keeping him out of action throughout the Christmas period and into the New Year. The coronavirus pandemic then hit, giving the player there months to recover before the season resumed and he returned agains Tottenham Hotspur, winning the penalty which United earned a 1-1 draw from. The Frenchman has played just 21 times this season, scoring one goal and four assists. His contract is set to expire in the summer of 2021, although there is an option for another year to be added. United would like to extend the player’s contract though.

Written by John Walker

Paul Pogba gives a hint that Manchester United stay is likely after Champions League qualification

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has given a hint that he will remain at the Old Trafford club after celebrating the clubs qualification for the UEFA Champions League next season. The player was subject to interest form both Real Madrid and Juventus in the past with suggestions of a summer transfer for the Frenchman but the coronavirus pandemic, then his return to the game after recovering from ankle injuries this season, added to his form and the arrival of Bruno Fernandes may have changed things.

United beat Leicester City 2-0 at the King Power Stadium in the final Premier League match of the season with Bruno Fernandes scoring a penalty, which was won by Anthony Martial then Jesse Lingard scoring a late goal, which was his first of the season, in fact, his first goal since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first match as manager of the club in December 2018 after the sacking of Jose Mourinho. United will be relieved that they will be playing Champions League football next season. Pogba posted a positive tweet on Twitter celebrating the fact, which said:

“Let’s gooooooo Champions League baby.”

The 27-year-old bounced back from ankle injuries this season during the lockdown and the suspension of the domestic season, returning to training when it was safe to do so and returning to action, albeit from the bench in the first Premier League match of the restart against Tottenham Hotspur, winning a penalty with United earning a 1-1 draw in the match. It was good to see the Frenchman back in action and building his fitness up for the remainder of the season.

During the course of the season, missing 39 matches for his club, Pogba made 19 appearances in the Premier League, Carabao Cup and the Emirates FA Cup, scoring one goal and four assists. He has not played in the UEFA Europa League as yet but could do during the remainder of the season. The Frenchman may not play against LASK in the round of 16 second leg with United 5-0 up from the first leg, presumably safely through to the quarter finals of the competition.

Pogba has been in good form since coming back but towards the end of the season, the entire squad seemed tired and in need of a break they were not going to get until the job had been done. Now that it has been done and over a week before United play their first match back in the Europa League, the squad will be given sufficient rest before returning to training before the latter stages of the tournament which will be played in Germany next month.

The remainder of the season and into the next will be big for Pogba, who has been subject of speculation by The Sun with the suggestion that the player will sign a new five-year contract at the club. It seems clear that United have improved and Fernandes’ arrival is crucial to that. With the summer transfer window now open and United looking to continue their rebuild, perhaps this summer Pogba will see what United are able to do in order to raise the bar in the squad in a bid to challenge for the Premier League title and more next season.

Written by John Walker

Paul Pogba studied Bruno Fernandes and how he played to set alight partnership

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has revealed that he studied teammate Bruno Fernandes ahead of their first match playing together for the club. Fernandes signed for United from Sporting Clube de Portugal during the January transfer window and has been a revelation for the club ever since he arrived. The Frenchman, who has been out with ankle injuries for much of the season seemingly wanted to get ahead of the game and adapt for his partnership with the Portuguese midfielder.

Fernandes cost United £47 million in January and could see his price eventually rise to £65 million or more with add-ons being paid to his former club based on his achievements and performances for his new club – which might be a certainty rather than a possibility based on what he has done in the 17 appearances he has made for the club, scoring eight goals and assisting a further eight – also have involvement in Marcus Rashford’s opening goal against Crystal Palace on Thursday.

When Fernandes arrived at the Old Trafford club, speculation was rife regarding Pogba’s future at the club with Real Madrid interested and also Juventus wanting to take him back to his former club – four years after he left. Injured at the time, suffering a second ankle injury, which required surgery and looked to keep him out for the season, Pogba started to watch videos of Fernandes’ performances, which kind of gives the suggestion that the Frenchman wanted to stay at United, in my opinion at least.

However, the coronavirus pandemic happened which suspended the Premier League season – and the rest of world football, in mid-March, giving the Frenchman time to recover, which he did during the lockdown, building up his fitness before returning to training with his teammates at the Aon training complex in Carrington, getting ready for the start of the season. It meant that Pogba and Fernandes’ partnership would actually be a thing – it’s great that Pogba did his homework on him.

Pogba returned, albeit from the bench in the 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur, winning the penalty that put United back into the game, playing competitively with Fernandes for the first time. Since then, the Frenchman has played in every match, starting six times and coming off the bench twice. It is fair to say the two players have hit it off and despite stumbling against both Southampton and Crystal Palace, despite scoring twice in each game, United have done well. Speaking to BT Sport before Thursday’s victory over Palace and reported by The Sun, Pogba said:

“When Bruno [Fernandes] arrived, I got that I need to understand him straight away.

“I didn’t want one month to adapt to his game so I watched him, watched his position, how he used the ball, what he’s good at so when I came back we could do well together.

“Straight away when I get to him [Bruno], I know ‘I can make this run’, ‘I know I have to pass him the ball there because he is dangerous there’.

“I try to analyse how he plays with the team, how to improve my positioning and stuff like that.”

Pogba is clearly enjoying things at United now that Fernandes has arrived. He should have been signed last summer when the speculation linking the Portuguese midfielder to the club was rife. However, that did not happen. Pogba is back in the thick of things, playing for the team he called his destiny when he returned to the Old Trafford club in the summer of 2016, clearly loving the new look United side, with creativity seemingly all over the pitch when in the past it might have been left to him, which could give understanding as to why he was not happy?

Last month, after a few weeks of action in the Premier League and the Emirates FA Cup, Pogba revealed that he was happy to be back in action playing alongside Fernandes, who is a spectacular player for the club after what he has shown to be his ability so far this season. His arrival has also brought out the best of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, with the trio helping themselves to 60 goals in all competitions this season – which is a great result for United. As reported by The Sun, Pogba was quoted as saying:

“From behind I just enjoy it. I’m enjoying just watching Bruno, Rashford, Martial and Mason, who all played the last game, and seeing them score goals.”

Previously, a record had been set at United with both Robin van Persie, who signed from Arsenal in the summer of 2012 – helping United to their 20th league title, and Eric Cantona, who signed from Leeds United in 1992 have seen their records overtaken by Fernandes, who has yet to taste defeat for United since his arrival. United are now on a 19-match unbeaten run this season, last losing to Burnley on the 22 January 2020; a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford. In his 11 Premier League appearances (before the Palace victory), United have won seven times, drawing four times with Fernandes scoring seven goals and seven assists.

Fernandes has a total of 14 goal involvements in his 12 league appearances, which beats Van Persie’s 12 goal involvements (eight goals, four assists) in 11 league matches, which shows how well United did by signing the player, albeit six months after they should have signed him. Cantona had 11 goal involvements in his first 11 matches for United (five goals, six assists) back in the 1992/93 season. Dwight Yorke is there too, one of the heroes of the treble winning season, with 11 goal involvements (seven goals, four assists) in his first 11 league appearances. Fernandes could well go onto becoming a legend of the club, possibly with Pogba, who is definitely happy to see a player of his calibre at the Theatre of Dreams, which could see him sign a new contract, maybe?

Written by John Walker

Manchester United’s number one priority is securing Paul Pogba to a new contract with happiness from the player after injury return

Manchester United have apparently made securing Paul Pogba to a new contract at the Old Trafford club their number on priority with eight players entering their last year of contract this summer. Pogba seemed destined to leave the Theatre of Dreams last summer after confirming that he wanted a new challenge, which might be in Manchester now.

Since the arrival of Bruno Fernandes during there January transfer window, Pogba will have seen that United were less reliant on him doing there business on the pitch, seeing just what could happen at the club with the right players, the right tactics and the right manager at the club. Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United have moved on from years of failure.

Since Pogba’s return from injury, which has kept him out for the majority of the season, United have won all five matches in which he started, also drawing in the first match back away to Tottenham Hotspur with the Frenchman winning a penalty which levelled the game. Pogba has been a different player and is seemingly loving life in Manchester again.

Both Real Madrid and Juventus were interested in signing Pogba this summer, before the coronavirus pandemic took told and ruined the financial plans of football clubs ahead of the summer transfer window opening. Pogba is in effect down to his final year in his contract, although United have the option to add another year on the deal.

His return in the summer of 2016 was seen as the best thing that had happened at the club post-Sir Alex Ferguson but injury, poor form (not just by Pogba) and poor management did not exactly make his return go to plan. Now, however, things feel different. United could offer Pogba more than £300,000 a week to sign a new deal, which would be worth it.

As well as Pogba, the contracts of Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Sergio Romero and Timothy Fosu-Mensah will end next summer and United could also opt to release Marcos Rojo, Lee Grant and Joel Pereira. In all fairness, Pogba is the best player amongst these and the priority should be him being that he is in the peak of his career and a world-class player.

Other reports suggest that Pogba is excited by United’s new dawn which could be continuing this summer with speculation linking Jadon Sancho with a move to the Old Trafford club, which would excite any player as it could make United one of the best teams in the Premier League again, after a bit of time with the player being allowed to settle, should he come.

The Athletic have claimed that Pogba has told his pals, albeit privately, which seems strange if journalists know about it, that he is buzzing about the prospective arrival of Sancho at the Theatre of Dreams, which could change United attacking impact next season, especially with the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, who between them have scored 55 goals in all competitions so far this season.

It could well be that United feel securing Pogba to United could be a tough deal, especially with Mino Raiola to contend with but with the financial impacts from the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that clubs might not have the money to pelt in United’s direction to sign Pogba, it might be the only option to keep the money coming in as times might be hard for the agent, being that he’s not made much money since January.

Bruno Fernandes has freed Paul Pogba from transfer fee burden according to Rio Ferdinand

Former Manchester United captain and central defender Rio Ferdinand believes that the arrival of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Clube de Portugal in January had now freed French midfielder Paul Pogba from the burden of his club record £89 million transfer fee. The club legend feels that Fernandes has rejuvenated United since his arrival.

United look to be a completely different team since the Premier League resumed last month and under the guidance of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the club will be seeking to challenge the likes of Leicester City and Chelsea to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season, qualifying for the UEFA Champions League next season.

Pogba has caught the eye since returning against Tottenham Hotspur, a match which he won the penalty that earned United a point from the match. He has started in each match since his return, playing at the top of his game and helping his team prosper, sitting unbeaten in their last 16 matches, scoring 43 goals, conceding six, and keeping 11 clean sheets.

It was expected that Pogba could be leaving the Old Trafford club this summer after many rumours linking the player with a return to Juventus or a move to Real Madrid. However, the player is thriving in a deeper midfield position playing alongside Nemanja Matic and with Fernandes playing further forward, it is working for Solskjaer and United. Ferdinand feels Pogba is no longer feeling the pressure, saying:

“[Paul] Pogba has been a totally different player since the restart. The energy levels in his game, it’s the Pogba United paid £89 million for four years ago.

“A big factor is undoubtedly the man he is playing with in the centre of midfield – Bruno Fernandes. Pogba will not want to be shown up out there and that’s perhaps the motivation he needed.

“Solskjaer will be absolutely loving what he’s seeing from those two. Fernandes is just doing what comes naturally to him and it’s been a huge boost to Pogba’s form – it’s freed him up to play as well.

“There’s probably less pressure on him now because he knows that some of the burden of expectation is being shouldered by Fernandes.”

It is going to be interesting to see what the remainder of the season brings for United. They will be back in action on Thursday evening when they travel to Villa Park to face Aston Villa, who are deep in a relegation battle after being defeated 2-0 by Liverpool on Sunday. United will be seeking to continue their good form and earn all three points, keeping chase on Chelsea, Leicester City who are fourth and third respectively.

Paul Pogba could extend Manchester United contract as he has ‘never been happier’ – reports

It is being reported that Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba could perform a u-turn and remain at the Old Trafford club beyond his current contract, which is due to expire in the summer of 2021, although there is another year that could be added on, which was agreed at the time he re-signed for United back in the summer of 2016.

Last summer, the Frenchman stated that he wanted a new challenge but that did not happen for him with rumours of an exit to Real Madrid not actually becoming anything serious at the time. The player has endured a poor season though, sitting on the sidelines through injury for much of the season, recovering during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

Since returning for United, Pogba has been playing well and looks to be happy at the club and thriving with midfielder Bruno Fernandes in the team, which has given United a new attacking edge, seeming one of the things that has made the Frenchman happier at the Old Trafford club this season. It will be good to see the player secure his future at the club.

It was suggested that both Juventus and Real Madrid were interested in signing Pogba this summer but because of the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that clubs will face financial problems because of the pandemic as supporters will be kept out of stadiums for a prolonged period of time. ESPN have suggested that Pogba is that happy he could prolong his stay.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems to have found his feet at the club with the players performing well this season and on a 15-match unbeaten run, chasing Chelsea in a big to finish inside the top four of the Premier League this season, earning UEFA Champions League football next season. United sit just two points behind Chelsea at present.

It is suggested that Solskjaer’s relationship with the Frenchman is a good one and that the players partnership with Bruno Fernandes, who arrived at the club during the January transfer window could be seen as a positive at the club with Pogba seemingly seeing what United could achieve if Solskjaer continues his rebuild of the club successfully.

Speaking about Pogba last month and whether the 27-year-old Frenchman could raise his form this season, Solskjaer said:

“Yeah, I really hope and believe. Of course Paul has had his difficult season this year with loads of injuries, but I can see his mentality and focus now that he is fit and training and available, that he is ready to play again and to prove… he has always had quality, Paul.

“He is one of the best midfielders in the world so hopefully we can get that going as soon as possible.”

copyright: JW