This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Great professional. Heart of gold. Fantastic. Three terms that according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are applicable to Manchester United’s want-away midfielder Paul Pogba.
The France World Cup winner has had a rocky time in his second spell at Old Trafford to say the least, and things appeared to boil over between himself and the club’s fans during the final Premier League game of the season.
Reports in recent weeks have suggested the 26-year-old could be on his way out of the club this summer and he even went so far as to admit: “It could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else.”
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Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, further stoked the fire with his recent comments, painting the picture of someone who has paid United the utmost respect. Whether intentionally or not, Solskjaer has lapped it up and put himself between a rock and a hard place.
Pogba stays, and United have an unhappy, overpaid player on their books. Pogba goes, and it will seem the midfielder has walked all over him.
Solskjaer’s defence of his midfielder in his pre-season press conference appeared to be an exercise in crisis management. The Norwegian played down Raiola’s words, and simply said: “I can’t be sitting here talking about Paul and what agents are saying, we’ve got a few years left of his contract and he’s been fantastic,” before explaining what a fantastic professional the midfielder is.
With all the negativity off the pitch surrounding the club’s owners and the apparent failures of Ed Woodward, United have desperately needed Solskjaer to be the side’s figurehead this summer. An authoritative figure leading from the front, taking no prisoners.
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Instead, rather than nipping the Pogba situation in the bud and demanding the Frenchman either be sold or come out and publicly apologise for letting his agent mouth off, Solskjaer has let the situation fester.
It is perhaps one of the big reasons why the footage of a ‘bust-up‘ between Pogba and Lingard went viral. It just adds to the circus show that United has become.
This is a crucial summer for the Red Devils in terms of creating the foundation for them to make an immediate return to the Champions League next season. Solskjaer’s handling of the entire situation has been weak, defensive and frankly incompetent.