Manchester United have been tipped to consider shelving plans to sign Aston Villa star Jack Grealish or another attacking midfielder this summer as a result of Paul Pogba’s resurgence and re-focus the money earmarked for that on a new centre-back instead.
Having missed most of the season as a result of troublesome foot and ankle injuries, Pogba has returned to action in impressive form since the campaign restarted.
The Frenchman’s on-field partnership with Bruno Fernandes has already had an impact on performances and results, while he is now expected to remain at the club – despite having seemed destined to leave not all that long ago.
It was reported in France recently that United have already decided to trigger the 12-month extension clause in Pogba’s current contract to take it to 2022. The player was described then as being happy at United again and excited by playing alongside Fernandes.
There had earlier been suggestions that a new long-term contract could be on the horizon and
Pogba’s changing situation could now end up influencing how United approach recruitment plans.
United have had a longstanding interest in Grealish for a number of months and it was understood that he formed part of the club’s primary recruitment alongside top target Jadon Sancho and teenage sensation Jude Bellingham – the latter is now expected to join Borussia Dortmund.
90min revealed last month that United would wait for Aston Villa’s fate to be decided either before there is any sort of formal approach for Grealish. That would be in the hope that relegation could see Villa soften their stance and lower an initial £80m valuation of the 24-year-old.
The likelihood is that it would be an easier and cheaper deal to agree if Villa are to be playing their football in the Championship next season, while former Villa boss and ex-United captain Steve Bruce has given his old club a positive review of the player.
However, with Pogba increasingly expected to stay, the question is now being asked as to whether United actually need another midfielder more urgently than they need a centre-back, especially in a challenging financial climate when certain things have to be prioritised over others.
From being a significant weakness before Christmas, midfield has suddenly become a major strength for United, with Pogba, Fernandes, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Fred all in excellent form and competing for only three starting places between them.
On top of that, Daniel James and the (hopeful) arrival of Sancho will provide further creativity in wide areas in support of forward options Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Odion Ighalo.
In a constantly evolving landscape, the latest from ESPN claims that United may opt to ‘divert funds’ initially intended to spend on Grealish or another similar player like Donny van de Beek or James Maddison on another centre-back to compete with Victor Lindelof and partner Harry Maguire.
United continue to be speculatively and loosely linked with Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, despite the Senegal international not really fitting with the club’s realigned recruitment policy in terms of age and long-term potential.
ESPN instead names three possible targets under consideration, all of whom are 25 or young and still have scope to develop into stars at Old Trafford. They are: Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings, who was capped by England in 2019, Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake, and AC Milan’s Alessio Romagnoli.
With regard to Ake in particular, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer personally congratulated the Dutchman after United played Bournemouth in their last game. He told Ake, ‘Just keep going’, although there is some doubt over the claims he also said ‘We need another left-footed centre-back’, and might have actually said, ‘You need a bit of luck from your centre-backs’.