Man United have the perfect plan to bring Pogba back into the first XI

Man United have the perfect plan to bring Pogba back into the first XI

Journalists are practically prohibited from talking to Paul Pogba unless Pogba wants to talk - and he likes to talk. His latest interviewer was Stella McCartney, renowned fashioned designer and daughter of Paul, so she was unlikely to broach the topic of Pogba's Manchester United future.

At least Ms McCartney was allowed to speak with Pogba in a chat arranged by their sponsors. At the start of last season, Adidas were due to put Pogba up for the launch of United's pink kit but the atmosphere at the club was so fraught he did not make an appearance and other Adidas clients showed their face.

The few reporters permitted entry were prevented from speaking to members of the United Women's team. The excuse from a marketing bod was they were 'too young' yet Siobhan Chamberlain, aged 35 at the time, was present. So a kit celebrating newspapers denied newspapers any access.

It is a pity United shield Pogba and that he delegates Mino Raiola to speak on his behalf. It does more harm than good, and Rio Ferdinand admitted his only 'problem' with Pogba is that he lets Raiola do almost all of the talking. Jose Mourinho insisted Pogba attend the pre-match press conference in Turin last year and he answered questions articulately without straying into controversy.

Pogba told McCartney: "I want to be the best." Provided the Premier League stages a successful restart, it will be over eight months - pushing nine - since Pogba last crossed the white line for kick-off. Even in sanitised Zoom videos, his withdrawal symptoms are apparent and he is clearly unconcerned about playing in Manchester, rather than Madrid.

In his absence, a United midfielder has emerged as the club's possible player of the year. Fred edged Marcus Rashford in a poll last week and the addition of Bruno Fernandes allows Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to field one of the most flamboyant midfield tridents United supporters have clapped eyes on.

Pogba's lack of commitment to United is largely irrelevant when love for the game is intense amid its hiatus. Ability-wise, he is a certain pick in a strongest United XI and so is Fernandes. Fred has to be, although Solskjaer has hardly played him as the isolated holding midfielder since Wolves picked his pocket at Molineux last year.

Nemanja Matic was in the best form of his United career since the start of it until football shut down and Scott McTominay was a contender to accept the Sir Matt Busby statue until he left Old Trafford on crutches on Boxing Day.

That old adage about the best players not making for the best team is especially relevant with the United midfield and it would be remiss to omit Matic or McTominay, the more defensive-minded options. United's pragmatism against City was an acceptance they are not at the elite's level (despite beating them) and the start of next season is a more appropriate time to herald a transition to a more open approach.

When at his optimum, few professionals rival Pogba's athleticism and he did not require an hour at Leigh Sports Village before he came on at Watford in December. He left Vicarage Road as the only visiting player with any credit and all signs pointed to a start against Newcastle on Boxing Day. Solskjaer suggested that would be the case at the post-match press conference, which effectively confirmed Pogba would be on the bench again.

Should United resume their season next month (presumably, against Tottenham) then there is little inclination to rush Pogba back into the XI when Matic, Fred, and Fernandes functioned so fluently, despite a major disruption. United could have up to 18 matches to fulfil and Pogba is likely to have more playing time than 10 hours in 10 months.

Pogba had not had ankle surgery prior to the slow-coach approach to Vicarage Road and training preparations in the lead up to the possible resumption are bound to be surreal. There will be a bedding-in process for Fred, not injured in almost two years, never mind Pogba.

Fred has started in United's last 22 league games and has placed a firm focus on intensity during workouts in quarantine. "We are also doing sessions of strength, power and endurance training, which are determining factors in football," his physical trainer Tulio Horta told the MEN. "The club sends the players a training schedule and we adapt our work to follow the same way, keep Fred well conditioned and work on other factors that during many periods is not possible."

Some have a head-start on Pogba and introducing him in-game would be a sensible measure to build up his rhythm. United could resume their season against Tottenham and Pogba would doubtless relish influencing a win against a Jose Mourinho side. And happily talk about it. Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook
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