Ole Gunnar Solskajer believes Paul Pogba may be the target of a Real Madrid campaign amid concerns the Manchester United star’s head has been turned by interest from Spain.
Sportsmail understands that a change in Pogba’s attitude and body language has been noticed around the club since he admitted during the recent international break that it would be ‘a dream’ to play for the European champions under Zinedine Zidane.
It has coincided with a charm offensive from the usual elements in the Spanish media loyal to Real, sparking fears at Old Trafford that he could become the latest United star lured to the Bernabeu by a club that has previously signed Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham.
Solskjaer’s mentor Sir Alex Ferguson famously declared that he wouldn’t sell Madrid a virus at the height of the Ronaldo speculation, and the Norwegian is aware of the possibility Real are trying to unsettle his player.
United are adamant that Pogba — whose agent Mino Raiola held detailed talks with Barcelona a year ago — will not be allowed to leave with more than two years left on his contract plus a 12-month extension clause, and Solskjaer insists the player is happy too after praising his performance against Barca in midweek. ‘There might be a campaign, you never know what there is, but in my talks with Paul he’s always positive,’ said the United boss. ‘I don’t see a difference in him when I chat to him. He’s focused on performing and he’s a proud player. He always gives his best. ‘He had his highest ever output physically on Wednesday night. He’d never run as much in a United shirt. That was brilliant. The effort and attitude are there.’
Even so, the change in Pogba’s statistics since he was sent off against Paris Saint-Germain in February is quite alarming. Having scored eight goals and made five in his first 10 games under Solskjaer, the France midfielder has no goals and just one assist in the last 10 games. There are also renewed concerns over Pogba’s off-the-field distractions. Last week he wanted to organise a personal sponsorship event with adidas at Carrington on a training day but was told to switch it to his day off instead.
‘You can see the difference in him since the Real links came up,’ said a club source last night. ‘He’s not as switched on as before and it’s been noticed in his body language and concentration levels.’ There is a belief that Pogba could look for a move if United fail to qualify for the Champions League and they face West Ham at Old Trafford this evening desperate for a win to revive their top-four hopes.
Four defeats in five games in all competitions have halted the progress made under Solskjaer, and the manager acknowledged that changes will have to be made in the summer to address the club’s problems.
‘I’m under no illusions, this is not going to be plain-sailing, it’s going to be hard,’ he said. ‘It’s going to be survival of the fittest — or survival of the best. That’s how ruthless we have to be. We need players here who are going to be able to take us forward.
‘There will be some tough decisions.’Daily Mail