It is now less than two weeks until the January transfer window opens and Manchester United are edging ever closer to an uncomfortable reality.
While the opening of the window will spark many supporters full of optimism regarding potential new acquisitions, the harsh reality is that United’s start to the year will likely involve intense speculation surrounding arguably their most divisive player.
United now have less than a fortnight left before Paul Pogba is free to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with overseas clubs in the January transfer window. They are running out of time if they want to convince him to stay.
The very fact that it has got this far already highlights what a mess United have been in behind the scenes in recent years, with the club missing many opportunities to either cash in on the Frenchman or give him an ultimatum in regards to signing an extension.
Ralf Rangnick has already cast further doubt on Pogba’s future by reiterating the club should be under no pressure to convince anyone to stay, while he also questioned the decision to let him travel to Dubai to recover from a thigh injury.
Pogba is now back in England after speaking with the German coach, but, with his current deal expiring on June 30, he has shown no inclination to sign a new contract.
Two years ago, the 28-year-old infamously confessed it was ‘time for a new challenge’ as he promoted his personal brand in Japan, and his agent, Mino Raiola, admitted later that year he was ‘sorry’ not to have engineered a transfer to Real Madrid.
A year ago this month, Raiola also claimed it was ‘over’ for Pogba at United and outlined his intention to broker a transfer this year, though any hopes of a deal were hampered by the ongoing pandemic as well as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s indulgence of the player as he looked to convince him to stay.
There can be no denying the obvious talents of the World Cup winner, and this season he has showcased his extraordinary ability, most notably registering a staggering seven assists in just the opening four matches of the Premier League campaign.
However, injury has plagued him once again, with Pogba’s current thigh injury the 14th of his United career, meaning he has now missed 82 first-team matches because of those different setbacks.
Pogba could prove to be an ideal fit for United as part of their new 4-2-2-2 formation in one of the two No.10 roles given his excellent form from the left earlier this year, but any hopes of doing so are complicated by the fact that Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek are his competition and none of them are keen on being on the bench.
Rangnick has also cast doubt on this being a possibility by admitting he sees the former Juventus star as a midfielder and ‘not so much as a striker or left winger’, but reiterated he would only be able to properly judge once he is fully fit.
In terms of simple squad harmony, it seems difficult to envisage a happy future for both Pogba and Fernandes in the current formation, further fuelling the suggestion that a January exit would be the most amicable resolution for all parties involved.
The decision should ultimately come down to the interim manager, and while Pogba is the one approaching the final months of his contract, it is Rangnick who should dictate the next steps.
Time is running out either way.