Manchester United’s stance on Paul Pogba’s future and their summer transfer plans explained
Green shoots of recovery have started to surface for Manchester United woes over the past week or so, following a seven-point haul from their last three Premier League outings.
United — who will resume their campaign with an FA Cup fourth-round clash against Championship side Middlesbrough next Friday evening — climbed back into the top-four for the first time since October last Saturday with a 1-0 win over West Ham.
Marcus Rashford’s last-gasp effort was enough to seal a second successive victory for United and extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to four matches.
There are still a lot more gears for United to go into, however, though recent results have suggested that they are beginning to adapt to life under Ralf Rangnick and understand his methods.
But while improvements, albeit slowly and steadily, are being made, the supporters are demanding more from the club, not least on the transfer front, ahead of the January window slamming shut on Monday evening.
On Thursday, MEN Sport’s chief United writer Samuel Luckhurst hosted a Q&A in an attempt to try and answer as many burning questions from United fans — including ones on the transfer window, Ralf Rangnick’s consultancy role and Paul Pogba’s future.
Q: Do you think Ralf Rangnick is under any pressure to pick players?
SL: No, I have never sensed that. He’s dropped [Marcus] Rashford, [Bruno] Fernandes, [Harry] Maguire and [Aaron] Wan-Bissaka — almost all of whom were undroppable under the previous manager.
Q: Any concrete information on Jesse Lingard/Donny Van De Beek at this stage as to if they will move or not? Secondly, do you think the United board will sanction a move for a midfielder now or will Rangnick simply have to work with what he has until the new permanent manager arrives?
SL: I’ve done stories on Lingard and Van de Beek this morning that you are free to read.
A midfield incoming before 11pm on Monday is still highly unlikely. United have six midfielders — if you are to include Fernandes — and Pogba isn’t going anywhere this month. If Van de Beek goes (still doubtful) it is hardly a compelling enough case to recruit one as he has barely played.
Q: I find it amusing how United value Lingard so highly despite having six months left on his contact and not having played much this season. Even Raphael Varane didn’t cost this amount last summer despite having one year left on his contract at Real Madrid. Do you think this another evidence how badly MUFC are run?
SL: The £50million figure is bizarre on a number of levels. It exists in a parallel universe and is barely worth dwelling on anymore.
Lingard has not started a league game for United in over two years; £25m in the summer was a fair reflection of Lingard’s value and United left the decision with an indecisive manager.
Evidence of it? No. United are effectively still negotiating with Newcastle and chancing their arm. There is every chance Newcastle will yield because they need Lingard a helluva lot more than United do and he could be the difference between them staying up and going down.
Newcastle cannot take a financial moral stance when clubs chance their arm, chiefly because they are now a sportswashing club. They should have known this would happen.
Q: Do United genuinely see McFred [Fred and Scott McTominay] as a viable midfield pairing for next season, or is this something that is due to be addressed in the summer?
SL: United won’t ever win the league with that midfield pairing. Both are good players who have a place in the United squad but they are not going to take the team to the next level. That’s already been proven in the last few years.
Q: Is Rangnick in contention for becoming permanent manager? Who is currently leading the charge, and will some sort of announcement/agreement be sorted before the season is up, or will we drag it out (and waste valuable squad building time)?
SL: I wouldn’t say he is ‘in contention’ and his comment about possibly staying on as manager beyond June at his introductory press conference was a bit of a throwaway line. When those of us who were there tweeted what Rangnick had said, in black and white it looked like he was throwing his hat into the permanent ring, when it didn’t really capture his tone.
Again, as I have replied to others, you are free to read last week’s story that was published on the site and on my social media channels.
Q: What are the priorities for the summer? Are they looking at more than one midfielder, a right-back, a forward?
SL: The midfield is the priority and there is every chance that two could come in. [Nemanja] Matic would have a year left on his contract and it is difficult to see Van de Beek’s situation improving. It will be at the discretion of the new manager, who might take a shine to a midfielder already on the books (eg. Garner) and decide to use him rather than demanding a second midfield signing.
Q: Is it clear as to how much influence Rangnick will have in the summer? Depending on the outs, there could be a bucket load of work needing to be done whilst still targeting the big-money signings could be quite harmful towards getting as much done as they can. I feel his knowledge could come in handy to find the odd hidden gem this summer.
SL: He is consulting on recruitment already but he is unlikely to have a veto on a target. The manager and the recruitment department who compile shortlists have that privilege, which is what resulted in the clash between Mourinho and the board in the summer of 2018.
They could get fees for [Dean] Henderson, [Phil] Jones, [Eric] Bailly, Van de Beek and [Anthony] Martial, but realistically that is not going to happen. Because:
1. United would have to be proactive and skilled sellers. They’re not.
2. That is a lot of seniority to discard in just one summer.
But those five would all willingly leave for various reasons.
Q: Is there any word on what Rangnick’s actual role/influence will be next year? Consultant seems very vague, will he help in shaping managerial/transfer policy, take a more formal role (like a sporting director), a board position, none of the above?
SL: He’ll have input on recruitment and the direction of the club, what the structure should be etc. So it would be more of a sporting director remit without him having that title. As part of that, he’s likely to be consulted on the next manager.
I’d be very surprised if he treads on the next manager’s toes next season. Look at what happened with [Louis] Van Gaal and [Ronald] Koeman at Ajax all of those years ago.
Q: It seems Ralf Rangnick is content with what Dalot and Telles are delivering, rightly so. Now, which of Shaw and Wan-Bissaka are appreciated or have a future at the club, it seems like Shaw, the one he mentioned he shouldn’t be playing for united? One More question about our youngsters, what impression does he have on the likes of [Ethan] Laird, [James] Garner, [Dylan] Levitt, [Ethan] Galbraith and [Facundo] Pellstri? is he waiting to seem them in pre-seaon, or they might be recalling any of them (Hopefully Garner)? Thank you.
SL: Did someone say that about Shaw? He’s had a poor season but last season he was United’s best player, for my money. He was certainly the most consistent performer.
I’d actually look to sell Wan-Bissaka in the summer. He’s three years in, 24-years-old and has been getting worse over the last 18 months. But they invested £50million in him just two-and-a-half years ago and who would want to sign that kind of an ‘asset’? Newcastle have a better right-back.
Q: Is there a chance of an [Odion] Ighalo-like signing?
SL: I half-joked if they want to look at the Chinese market for a midfielder who played in the Premier League there is always Marouane Fellaini.
United aren’t as desperate as they were two years ago when the manager turned to a Norwegian striker and then a striker represented by a Norwegian on deadline day. Ighalo was okay in the short-term but redundant after the restart.
Q: In my opinion, Paul Pogba will be important in getting top-four and doing something in the Champions League. Is there a possibility that Pogba could yet sign a new deal after letting his current one expire, as he makes more money that way than the current contract offer? There really are not any suitors for him and its nearly February when he should be agreeing a pre-contract. You would not want a player to go from Manchester united to PSG of all places. What do you reckon: is there a possibility of him still staying beyond the summer, as the Pogba we saw in 2021 was excellent, bar the last few games before his injury.
SL: The chances of Pogba staying hover just above 0 per cent. Nobody is expecting him to stay and nobody was expecting him to move this month, especially as he is injured. In the summer, he will have the pick of the lot and Juve could snap him up on a ‘free’ again 10 years on from when they did it the first time.
He has shown no inclination to sign a new deal with United. It’s slightly surprising some fans still think he could.
Q: Recently, United players were seen jetting off to holiday with John McGinn and Tyrone Mings. Are these two names on Manchester United’s radar and we could see something similar to [Romelu] Lukaku and Pogba on holiday before Lukaku signed for the club?
Aston Villa have signed players which would mean they might need to sell, and the two players have been linked with United in the past.
SL: Villa played at Everton on Saturday and Manchester Airport has direct flights to Dubai, which is where most British footballers go when there’s a mid-season break. From what I gather, a lot of the England players have been socialising with each other out there.
United have talked up the influence of their English players in the national squad when there is a player of interest, such as Maguire in 2019 and Sancho in 2021. I wrote in March or April that Rice had spoken to [Harry] Maguire and Shaw about United during the March squad get-together.
Q: Did we consider bringing Garner back to squad this winter? He’s doing great and some players on loan come back these days.
SL: He’s doing well at Forest — which is exactly why he’s staying there. Regular playing time at a good level for a good club competing to get into the Premier League. That stands him in good stead before he returns to United in the summer.
Q:Some newspapers are talking about Rudiger and United. Are we considering him?
SL: His agent will link him with every big club in Europe to get him as good a deal as possible. So it’s inevitable United might get thrown into the mix.
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