Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains confident that Paul Pogba will stay at Manchester United.
The 26-year-old has been the subject of intense speculation over the summer, with his openness about a desire for a new challenge elsewhere compounded by comments from his agent Mino Raiola.
But unlike fellow wantaway star Romelu Lukaku, Pogba knuckled down during pre-season and provided two assists in the 4-0 win over Chelsea in United’s Premier League opener.
The midfielder was naturally upbeat after that victory but talk swirled once more when he also admitted “there’s always that question mark” about his future.
“You always put question marks around Paul,” United boss Solskjaer said when those comments were put to him ahead of Monday’s trip to Wolves.
“I don’t think it’s odd saying enjoy playing, I have fun with my team-mates, I enjoy what I’m doing, I love my job and enjoy the game.
“Of course, that sentence with the question mark about him, there’s always question marks about Paul.
“There’s not one press conference that I’ve not answered a question about Paul Pogba. Eighty per cent of what he said was that he enjoyed that game and his time here.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd)August 18, 2019
Asked about the other 20 per cent, Solskjaer said: “That’s the question mark. Is he questioning you or are you putting question marks on him? I’ve got absolutely no concerns on Paul.”
Links to Real Madrid persist and Mathias Pogba this week claimed his brother wants to leave.
Pushed on whether Pogba will definitely be a United player when the European transfer window shuts on September 2, Solskjaer said: “Unless some… for me, yeah, he’s going to stay.”
While the World Cup winner looks set to stay, surely something has to give when it comes to defensive options.
Harry Maguire’s record-breaking arrival has swollen the number of first-team central defenders to seven, although Eric Bailly faces a spell on the sidelines injured.
Victor Lindelof partnered the former Leicester defender on the opening weekend, while academy graduate Axel Tuanzebe – who Solskjaer believes has a “big, big part of this club in the future” – was named on the bench.
Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo were conspicuous by their absence from the squad, with the United manager conceding they are overstocked.
“That will be for us to work out, and of course I do have too many centre-backs to keep everyone happy,” Solskjaer said.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd)August 14, 2019
“But we need to win games, we need to perform, so we’re going to pick the players that will give us the biggest chance to win games. They’re all quality centre-backs and I know that we will need quite a few of them.
“Of course, Eric’s injury means that at the moment I’ve got six fit ones, which is maybe one too many to keep everyone involved.
“But then that’s our jobs, to make the most of what we have now, and for them as well to make sure every day in training.
“And when they get the chance, because they will – we’ve got loads of games, play well when you get it. All of these, Marcos, Phil, Chris… they’ve been here for a long time and they’ve proven that they can do it.”
Options are not quite so abundant in attack, although Daniel James, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford all got on the scoresheet against Chelsea.
It was a dream debut for Welsh winger James, while the latter pair finally have the chance to dominate the attack – even if Solskjaer sees 17-year-old Mason Greenwood coming into his own.
“I want both of them to be more scoring easy goals,” Solskjaer said of Martial and Rashford. “Because you don’t have to work too hard to score them, just a little bit of movement.
“It was a great counter-attack, great runs by Anthony and I think maybe he felt he should have got the first pass, it went a little bit wide out to Jesse (Lingard) and he stopped.
“But then he got himself back in a good position and even though he might have mishit it, it went in, so if you can get five extra goals like this every season, both of them, that’s 10.”
Asked whether Rashford or Martial is the most natural finisher, he said with a smile: “Well, they’ve still got a way to go because Mason’s more of a natural finisher than them two.”