In transforming Paul Pogba, Manchester United are acting smart. Getting the France international back to his best, and making him happier as a result, can ease negotiations when it comes to landing Erling Haaland this summer. The Borussia Dortmund star is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s top transfer target having flourished at the Westfalenstadion ever since his arrival 14 months ago.
Manchester United will need a striker this summer.
Edinson Cavani is looking increasingly likely to leave Old Trafford behind, with Boca Juniors confident of securing his signature.
Anthony Martial has misfired this term, with the France international looking a shadow of the player who bagged 23 goals across all competitions last time out.
And Mason Greenwood has struggled, too. The England international has scored just once in the Premier League this season, having been far deadlier a year ago.
With that the case, United want to sign Haaland.
And, by getting Pogba back to his best, they’re cleverly mending their relationship with the player’s agent, Mino Raiola, in the process.
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Raiola, on the eve of their crunch Champions League clash with RB Leipzig earlier in the season, hit out at the way his client had been treated.
He accused Solskjaer of failing to let the France international off the leash, saying: “There’s no point beating about the bush. It’s better to speak out clearly, look forward and avoid wasting time to find culprits
“Paul is unhappy at Manchester United, he can’t manage to express himself like he wants to and like people expect him to.
“He needs to change team, he needs a change of scenery.
“He has a contract that will expire in a year and a half, in the summer of 2022, but the best solution for all parties is a transfer in the next window.
“Otherwise the Old Trafford club, which I have a great relationship with, knows well that they would risk losing him on a free transfer, given that at the moment it’s not the player’s intention to extend the contract.”
Since then, United have tweaked Pogba’s position.
And the 28-year-old is now showcasing his talents for everybody to see, looking the end product after years of waiting.
Before injury struck, the France international looked reborn playing on the left wing of United’s attack.
And that was the case on Thursday night, with the 2018 World Cup winner scoring the only goal of the game as AC Milan were beaten at the San Siro.
If United want to sign Haaland, they need to keep Raiola happy.
And even the notoriously-difficult super agent will struggle to condemn Solskjaer’s handling of his client given how things are currently going for him at Old Trafford.
Solskjaer didn’t choose to engage Raiola in a war of words.
Instead, the Norwegian has been putting in the graft behind the scenes to ensure Pogba, who he previously managed at youth level, hits all the right notes.
And if Pogba can continue to improve, who knows what will happen?
Meanwhile, speaking recently, Raiola warned potential suitors that only 10 clubs could afford to sign Haaland from Dortmund this summer.
“It is obvious that everybody is looking at Erling as one of those potential new future stars because it’s so difficult to do what he does at his age at his level,” he said.
“He will be one of the future stars of the next decade because we see that stars such as Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo and Messi are coming to an age where everyone asks themselves: ‘How long can we still enjoy them?’ So everyone is looking for the new generation.
“Only a maximum of 10 clubs can afford to buy [Haaland] and give the platform you would like after you’ve been in Dortmund… and four of those clubs are in [England].
“I don’t think there’s a sports director or trainer in the world who would say ‘not interested’.
“It’s like saying: ‘Is there a Formula 1 team who would not be interested in having Lewis Hamilton?'”
Published at Sun, 21 Mar 2021 06:00:00 +0000