Pogba has done Solskjaer a favour: Man Utd midfielder's suspension means one less problem to solve

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Paul Pogba Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Manchester United 2021-22 GFXGetty/Goal

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a lot of problems he needs to sort out at Manchester United.

The Norwegian is clinging on to his job as manager and desperately needs a victory in Saturday's Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur.

His team selection and tactics for the trip to north London will be scrutinised but at least one decision has already been made for him.

Paul Pogba is suspended for the game against Spurs, with the Frenchman starting a three-match ban for his straight red card  for a dreadful tackle on Naby Keita in last weekend's humiliating 5-0 loss at home to Liverpool.

Since he returned to the club in 2016, Pogba has been the star of his very own sideshow. He may not have always been the focus of media attention but the midfielder’s trials and tribulations have been a constant distraction for everyone else at Old Trafford?

But, is this the beginning of the end of his second stint at United? Old Trafford icon Paul Scholes certainly seems to think so. 

“You'd have to think, if Ole's still a manager there, will we see Pogba again in a United shirt? He's caused mayhem over the last couple of years," the former midfielder told  Premier League Productions  after the Liverpool defeat.

"Everyone knows what a talent he is, everybody trusts him, every manager trusts him, tried to give him his due and let him be the player he's been.

"But given all the commotion – not signing his contract, almost holding the club to ransom – for him to come on [at half-time against Liverpool], and he does something like that...

“He probably will play [again], will he? But I don't think they will be missing anything if he doesn't. He's had numerous chances, he keeps saying he lacks consistency, but [the red card] is just [a lack of] discipline and disrespect for your manager and your team-mates.”

Paul Pogba Manchester United Liverpool Premier League 2021-22 GFX
Getty/Goal

Pogba’s contract expires next summer. As it stands, he is unwilling to put pen to paper on the new deal which is on the table from United, and Goal understands he and his team are calm about the situation.

The Old Trafford perspective is not one of panic either. If he doesn’t commit in the next two months, he will be free to start negotiating with other clubs in January, but that doesn’t mean that United will sell him during the winter window.

They are prepared to lose him on a free transfer, for the second time in his career. Of course, there could yet be a U-turn on Pogba's part. But if there isn't, would his exit be a disaster for United? Arguably not. 

On his day, he is the best player in the United squad but even though he has seven assists in nine Premier League appearances this term, his performances have still been sub-standard in general.

Mayhem, the word Scholes used, is a strong one but the circus that Pogba and his agent Mino Raiola have pitched up at Old Trafford has not been helpful.

Furthermore, were he producing the kind of form that pulling on a France jersey brings out of him, then perhaps the tolerance of the off-field disruption regularly created by his representative would be higher.

Solskjaer has downplayed any suggestion of a rift between himself and Pogba and it is understood the France international is well liked within the dressing room.

He apologised to them after his reckless red against Liverpool but it is still widely accepted that he wants to embrace a new challenge away from Manchester at the end of the season.

Sunday's brief cameo certainly didn't give the impression of someone intent on doing whatever he can to help his team-mates.

It was also telling that he didn't issue a public apology to the club's supporters for his dismissal at Old Trafford, instead posting a vague promise to improve on social media.

“No time to feel sorry for ourselves... Wake up, step up and make the next days better,” he wrote.

However, given he'll now be suspended in the league until December, he will play no part in United's attempts to climb the table.

In many ways, though, he has done Solskjaer a favour: where to put Pogba in the starting line-up has been one of the United’s manager’s toughest conundrums over the past three years. 

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That issue can now be put to one side for a few weeks, allowing the under-fire manager to focus on saving his job. 

The Pogba problem hasn't gone away of course. It will remain in the background until he inevitably leaves next summer.

For now, though, Pogba is the least of Solskjaer's worries.