Ralf Rangnick stood on dangerous ground when he suggested Paul Pogba might use game time as an opportunity to put himself in the shop window for Manchester United.
Given the back and forth regarding Pogba and constant speculation about his future, that particular tact was not a surprise, but declaring so in public gaze really did raise eyebrows.
No matter your stance on Pogba – or his agent Mino Raiola for that matter – the player is within his rights to pursue other avenues and keep his options open.
After all, talk about a would-be departure has not simply surfaced in the final months of his contract.
This matter has been creeping up on United for quite some time – as it has with Jesse Lingard – but as those respective situations continue to be dealt with bizarrely, they do so for different reasons.
United are gearing up to lose Pogba on a free transfer for the second time.
A decade on from his first switch to Juventus, the Italian giants are ‘circling’ once again, while PSG and Real Madrid represent alternative destinations for a player who divides opinion like no other at Old Trafford. It wouldn’t be wide of the mark to suggest he has not peaked during his second coming at United, but Rangnick – like those before him – knows exactly what Pogba is capable of conjuring.
His short-term value for a top-four battle was deemed more worthy than offering desired opportunities to Donny van de Beek for example as he, instead, prepares to spend the rest of this season at Everton.
Rangnick and United will be justified in their stance if Champions League qualification is secured – more so if Pogba proves the telling difference in that respect.
Under normal circumstances, the World Cup winner would not have been granted such special treatment.
Ultimately, though, the Frenchman can still help United confirm their seat at the top table in Europe, even if he will not join them when attentions turn to the 2022/2023 season. Rangnick, in many ways, leads the way in that respect as he prepares to take an advisory role upstairs.
So what about Lingard?
It defies logic that a player who showcased his talent to dazzling effect at West Ham last season has been handed only 106 minutes in the Premier League this term.
On one hand, United are well-stocked in attacking quarters, but question marks over summer signing Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford – amid struggles with form – failed to result in chances for Lingard.
He too seems destined for the Old Trafford exit doors.
However, while Sancho and Rashford have shown glimpses of an upturn in past games, Lingard – similarly to Pogba – has a real point to prove and that bit between his teeth may hand United the boost they desperately need as focus remains on an intensified top- fourchase.
Do you think Lingard deserves game-time? Have your say in the comments section below.
It was at this time last season that Lingard really kicked on with the Hammers.
Denied to move on deadline day, his treatment leaves a lot to be desired.
United through and through as man and boy, Lingard owes the club nothing and yet, having dealt with him with such disdain, should now turn to him to replicate his east London heroics in Manchester. Albeit, heroics of which they are not worthy.
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