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Ole or Woodward's man? How reality-check could rescue Pogba's Man Utd career

COMMENT: So does Ed Woodward get his way? Another season and another chance? After all the exit talk. From those close to him. From his agent. And from the man, himself. This time, this season - so they're telling us, Paul Pogba can be counted on.

This a situation by design, not circumstance. And the one pulling the strings is Manchester United's vice-chairman. Pricing Pogba out of a move away has nothing to do with football. And it has nothing to do with the manager. Pogba stays a United player, for now, thanks to Woodward. A decision made not from a football angle, but from the commercial side. Not based on the number of goals or assists, but on the number of Insta and Twitter followers. And if the awareness of this reality doesn't motivate the player, then nothing will.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has dubbed his No6's attitude and commitment as "fantastic". Which really sums up where we are with Pogba. Turning up on time. Following instructions. It's the very least you'd expect from a Manchester United player. It should be the norm, not something to highlight or celebrate. But that's just it, that's all that Pogba, as a news subject, can generate these days. Solskjaer can't talk about the midfielder's preseason form. There's been no great goals. No great passages of play. It's now been reduced to body language and attitude.

But it wasn't always like that. For this column, Pogba's performance two years ago in Santa Clara is still a highlight. It was an early preseason game, in the Californian heat, but Pogba led from the front. Tackling. Passing. Long lung-bursting runs. It was a marker. A performance to suggest we were watching something special develop in front of us.

But today? Today, there's been no such memories made. Nothing for the coaching staff to stop us cynics in our tracks. To point to and hang their hat on. All Solskjaer has now is the midfielder's attitude in training... oh, and some clever flicks on a cricket ground in Perth.

At Real Madrid, they've already moved on. Florentino Perez, the Real president, was never enthusiastic about Pogba. Woodward essentially playing into his hands with his ridiculous claims of €160m, €170m, even €200m for the player. That Florentino's last - and possibly final - bid was for James Rodriguez plus a token €25m cash component was just about right. Yeah, Real would make more than double that overall assessment in merchandise sales, but in terms of what Pogba could offer on the pitch...? As Guti stated just days ago, "he's no (Luka) Modric".

And as we said, Woodward's football fantasy plays right into Florentino's hands. There's still almost four weeks of the LaLiga market to run. Four weeks of Zinedine Zidane nagging his president to get a deal over the line. But Florentino doesn't want Pogba, nor his agent Mino Raiola, anywhere near Madrid. The price demanded by United giving a grateful Florentino a simple and easy excuse to keep his coach onside.

In Turin, they're insisting Juventus could still come into the picture. Seeing his club's share price skyrocket thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo's presence last season, Andrea Agnelli would love to repeat that experience with Pogba's return. But Maurizio Sarri doesn't share his president's opinion. The new Juve coach is more focused on whom to shift out than any plan of how to fit in the Frenchman. Six players from Juve's squad need to be shed to comply with Champions League demands.

So for now, they're stuck with eachother. For all those words from Harry Maguire last week, about building a team, a long-term vision, there'll be one player in this United dressing room who won't be all in. His teammates will know it. As will the coaching staff. And how you build a team spirit and unity knowing your highest profile player isn't buying into it, only a football genius like Woodward can answer.

It's been claimed today that Pogba has assured Solskjaer he's willing to get his head down. To commit to the new season. Assurances that he won't be a "disruptive influence" have been offered. But the long timers at Carrington have heard this all before. And been let down. None of those who were around this time last year are taking Pogba at his word.

Which, coupled with the support of Woodward, could be the one thing that saves Pogba's reputation. Realising how he's hurt all those connected to the club. Recognising that he's Woodward's man, not the manager's. Perhaps the penny will drop. Perhaps this, at the age of 26, will convince Pogba that he needs to start making memories and generating headlines on the pitch - and not in cyberspace.

Chelsea at Old Trafford is as good a place as any to start. He's made the promise to his manager. And he's offered the same to his teammates. But words are one thing, deeds another. As a Manchester United player, can Paul Pogba be counted on...?

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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