Manchester United should sell Paul Pogba even if they make a loss and talk of increasing his wages to ensure he stays at Old Trafford is silly and misses the point

Manchester United should not bother waiting for an astronomical offer for Paul Pogba, whatever Ed Woodward seems to be saying. If any reasonable bid comes in they should accept it, because the time has come to sell if a long-running story is not to end up running into next season.

We have all heard far too much already about the French players hopes and desires, and his clubs determination to keep hold of him rather than lose face by admitting they cannot offer the level of football he craves. Pogba has had his moments in a United shirt but he has not been the sort of stellar performer who would leave a gaping hole, so it would surely be better to accept the inevitable and get some business done rather than continue to pretend this stormy marriage is somehow going to sail into a serene and productive future.

Even United must be aware that, because they paid massively over the odds for Pogba, they are unlikely to recoup all of their money. The players time at Old Trafford has hardly enhanced his market value either on the pitch or away from it. Becoming a World Cup winner while a United player only highlighted the fact that Pogba appeared to have more to give than his club were able to get out of him. He is an elite player there is no doubt about that and as such he belongs at an elite club. Whether United currently fit that billing is a matter for debate, though the point is that the number of clubs who do is quite small and, if Woodward receives an approach from any of them, he would be wise to consider it.

Talk of increasing Pogbas wages to ensure he stays at Old Trafford is silly and misses the point. It is highly likely that Pogba would have to accept a pay cut to play in Spain or Italy, yet he still remains keen to move on. United already have one overpaid and underperforming passenger on their books in Alexis Snchez.

No one is suggesting Pogba would end up quite that unhappy but United realise that it is too late now to expect any offers for the Chilean, astronomical or otherwise, while Snchez himself is unlikely to bother hinting that he would like to join a club with loftier ambitions.

Ole Gunnar Solskjr defended Paul Pogba a number of times last season. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

Selling Pogba need not be seen as a knee-jerk reaction or a punishment for the perceived disloyalty of speaking out. United simply have to be grown-up enough to accept that their failure to qualify for the Champions League is bound to have such consequences. If there is interest in the player at the moment, and it would appear Pogba has a destination in mind, Uniteds first concern should be Ole Gunnar Solskjrs team-building plans, not the need to keep up appearances.

Does the new manager, who endured a difficult end to last season, really want players in his side who would rather be somewhere else? Solskjr made a point of defending Pogba on several occasions last season, and the players latest statement that it could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else could be seen as both ungrateful and disrespectful towards a relatively inexperienced manager with a lot on his plate. Pogba has certainly not made Solskjrs job easier, though by granting his wish United could raise some revenue and give the manager a chance to surround himself with players of his own choosing.

The one thing Woodward cannot realistically expect is a bidding auction, which is why the notion of an astronomical sum is wishful thinking. The player is available in the way that most players outside the Champions League bracket are available, if a club from the upper echelon comes calling. United would find it hard to keep him against his wishes, or at least to keep him happy.

The price does not have to be right and continental suitors know it. United do not have to let him go for peanuts but equally they are not in a position to expect a profit. Missing out on the Champions League does not turn you into a selling club overnight but it does leave you vulnerable and it is best to be realistic about the situation.

This, of course, is why Jos Mourinho described second place in 2018 as one of his greatest achievements. He knew what Louis van Gaal has just admitted, that United could no longer go out and sign any player they fancied, and he also knew that clubs such as Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs were further ahead in terms of recruitment, planning and development.

Solskjr, if he does not know it already, has all that to find out. Pogba was merely stating the obvious: United are in an unenviable position and in all likelihood will find the top four an even tougher nut to crack next season. It might be true but the least Solskjr deserves is an end to that sort of background noise, not a constant repetition of it through the months to come.



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