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Woodward's project: Why Man Utd should be selling not rewarding Pogba

COMMENT: So just throw money at it? That's the answer? Another outburst from the other side of the world. Another show of contempt. And the reaction from the board at Manchester United is to reward Paul Pogba with a £200,000-a-week pay-rise...

Well, that's the latest coming out of the London press today. Rather than show some backbone. Some pride in the United name. It's status. Ed Woodward, the club's vice-chairman exec, has done the opposite. A new deal is being drawn up. From his current £290,000-a-week, Woodward happy to fax across to Pogba a contract worth £500,000-a-week. Enough to match Alexis Sanchez. What Pogba has done these past 12 months to warrant such a pay-rise, only Woodward could tell. But at least he's consistent. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones also being beneficiaries of this contract policy. Neither man. Nor Pogba. None of them could claim the pay-rise was due reward for performance. That it was earned on merit. Though Pogba stated a case for himself in Tokyo on Sunday.

"After this season and everything that happened this season, with my season being my best season as well... I think for me it could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else," he insisted at a sponsors' function, inevitably for adidas.

"I am thinking of this - to have a new challenge somewhere else."

And that should be it. United should be bigger than this. If Pogba is claiming last season was the best he could do. That he needs a "new challenge" (whatever the one just conquered was). Then United should help him on his way. If the club has the resources to reward such an underperforming force a clear £500,000-a-week contract. Then they also have the spending power to punt this same underachiever and find a leader - a standard bearer - they can rely on.

But the reaction of Woodward really shows the disconnect between those running United and what we have witnessed as their managed decline. The same Woodward who continues to delay, to stall, the board's plans to install a technical director to get the place back on track. He now believes he can succeed where virtually every other club and board have failed.

It didn't work for Southampton with Virgil van Dijk. It also didn't work for the Dutchman's desired club, Liverpool, and their row with Philippe Coutinho. And it won't work with Pogba.

He may sign this new deal. He may let the summer window shut still as a United player. But he won't change. Away from the club. Whether on international duty. Or with those sponsors. He'll pipe up again. He'll rile up the fans again. He'll tear away - again - at the morale and spirit inside the United locker room. The rift between senior players and Pogba allies will grow wider. The exasperation of coaching staff become more apparent. And should Woodward get this way, you'll hear from these coaches more and more. It's not just the players who have a hotline to the press...

Indeed, we're now just getting confirmation what has been inferred for months. There was a spring in the step of coaching staff at Carrington. A belief that Pogba would be gone. Whether that be to Juventus or Real Madrid. Such a prospect was welcomed by the old timers at the club. A clean slate. A new approach - a group approach - to discipline. To accountability. It was really getting back to the days of Sir Alex. Or so they thought...

But Pogba is Woodward's project. At a club that finished potless last season. Suffered the ignominy of a managerial sacking. And barely scraped Europa League qualification. Pogba remains the club's cash register. And this is what motivates the vice-chairman above all else. That Pogba had a big - if not the biggest - influence on such a dismal campaign simply washes over Woodward.

Those close to the vice-chairman insist he's doing the right thing. That he's making "a show of strength" in the face of pressure from Real, Juve and the player, himself. But United are an institution. There should be no need for such a stand. Again, if Pogba openly declares he wants to leave, a club of United's status have the resources and pulling power to find a player just as good - if not better - and one fully committed to the cause.

By reacting as he has, Woodward isn't just delaying the inevitable, he's accelerating the decline that he's overseen these past six years. Pogba isn't just the biggest name at the club. He's also the biggest influence. The biggest role model. And - in partnership with Woodward - Pogba has set the standard of what is expected from a Manchester United player.

Money won't fix this problem. For once in these six years, Woodward needs to do right by the football club and not the bottom line: Sell him.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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