Is it time for Manchester United to ditch Paul Pogba?

Manchester United take on Watford in the Premier League on Sunday and a win would, perhaps only temporarily, take them to within a point of Chelsea in fourth place.

With over half of the season left to play, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be in a strong position to argue that the momentum is with his side in their pursuit of a Champions League place. 

The transfer window is due to open in a little over a week and Solskjaer can make a plausible case to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward that the time is right to back him in the market.

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Solskjaer should have money to spend and would have far more funds available if United cut their losses on Paul Pogba. The midfielder is set to miss yet another game, following injury and illness, and it would appear that the World Cup winner’s long-rumoured move away is inching closer.

Getting the right players in will be key for United, but Woodward has something of a reputation for letting down his managers in the market.

After finishing in the Champions League places, Louis van Gaal expected a player of the quality of Sergio Ramos but was instead asked to use Chris Smalling and Phil Jones at centre-back again.

Jose Mourinho wanted Toby Alderweireld but was instead offered Fred, Lee Grant and Diogo Dalot.

Each time United have had a base to build upon Woodward fluffed his lines. Even David Moyes believed he would get Leighton Baines and Cesc Fabregas, only to be given Marouane Fellaini, for a price over his buyout clause.

This winter, United players expect two signings to be made before January is out. Erling Haaland is one player who could arrive. He might not have been on a plane to Manchester from Stavanger on Friday, as anticipated by some, but Solskjaer had an oddly-intimate knowledge of his travel plans.

The other position that looks set to be strengthened is midfield. United have been linked with a few players, which suggests that doing business will not be easy in January, and the club have a shortlist to work through.

Christian Eriksen, James Maddison and Jadon Sancho are not exactly the same type of player, but each would add their own kind of attacking threat and creativity. Sancho remains United’s No.1 target of players based abroad, but Maddison has been discussed as a potential recruit, while an approach was made for Eriksen in the previous transfer window.

None of the targets are straightforward. Chelsea believe they have stolen a march on United for Dortmund’s crown jewel Sancho, Eriksen would prefer to move abroad, and Maddison may simply not be for sale as Leicester City are Liverpool’s most credible rival for the title.

Nevertheless, United do want to sign a player who can take charge of a game and lend support to the club’s strikers, and money is not an obstacle in the chase for most of their targets.

That role in the team should have been fulfilled by Pogba by now. He has spent a sizeable time out of the first-team picture, dropped by Mourinho for various reasons, and throughout his time at Old Trafford he has been susceptible to injuries.

Even now, coming back from an ankle problem, he has been laid low by an unspecified illness that Solskjaer believes could keep him out until the end of the year. Some fans are speculating that he is more unwilling than unwell.

His future was made even less clear by Mino Raiola’s interview with The Telegraph on Friday. Pogba’s agent claims that the French star wants to stay at the club and win trophies, but that he requires more support to do so.

That is hardly a full-throttle endorsement but is far more positive than the noises he made over the course of last summer, when his client pursued a move to Real Madrid.

It is tempting to suggest United cut their losses on a record-breaking transfer that has fallen well short of expectations. It makes perfect sense and if they take that course then few could blame them.

Equally, if they add Haaland and Sancho they would perhaps only be one or two signings from challenging for the title again under the right guidance. Certainly, they would be strong contenders for the top four.

In a positive setting, as Pogba demonstrated at Juventus, he can be an important and joyful presence in midfield, capable of interventions that others could never match. Solskjaer clearly likes him, and Woodward values his reputation.

If United labour to another disappointment against Watford then they may be tempted to give him yet another chance to show the club what he can do, rather than move him on.

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