With Jadon Sancho signed, expect Paul Pogba to sit down at the table soon
Manchester United's signing of Jadon Sancho was a signal of intent, and it's likely that their stars have taken notice
(Authors note: Gonna be a bit different this week. Not doing a big deep dive with numbers and stats etc. This post is straight opinion. I don’t have facts to back up my claims, this is just how I personally feel and see things playing out.)
Manchester United announced the signing of Jadon Sancho on July 1st 2021. The date is important for a lot of reasons. For one, it finally puts an end to a transfer saga that’s dragged on for over a year, they got it down before preseason so Sancho can be in the mix right from the start of things,1 and it leaves them plenty of time to turn their attention to their other targets.
All that’s nice but it misses the most important benefit to them getting this deal done early. The vibes.
Manchester United are a team of vibes.2 Adding a superstar like Sancho sends good vibes throughout the squad and will drastically lift the mood around Carrington when players begin arriving for preseason next week.
Most importantly, this signing will have a residual effect throughout the squad. The signing of Sancho was a statement of intent from United. We are trying to win. Our manager has a vision and we will back him to see out that vision.
They’ve been saying that for a few years but when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, they’ve been a bit slow. There have been legitimate reasons for that slowness, but they’ve also provided enough reasonable reasons to question that ambition.
That’s where Paul Pogba comes in. The Frenchman is United’s best midfielder and the only one who can pass the ball forward regularly.3 Pogba is entering the final year of his contract bringing a cloud over his future at Old Trafford.
That cloud is nothing new. Pogba’s future has been called into question for the past three years, mostly because for the past three years his agent has been trying to engineer a big money move so they could get paid.
Pogba himself has never said “I want to leave Manchester United.” He has never said “I want to join Real Madrid.” He did say “maybe it’s time for a new challenge” ONCE. Other than that, it’s only been his agent running his mouth. Yes, his agent works for him and Pogba could tell him to shut up, but it’s also his agents job to get his client the most money possible. This is how his agent plays the game. It doesn’t bother me because the players literally don’t care. They know this is just their teammates agent playing the game but as long as he’s coming to work every day and acting like a professional - which by every single recorded account he was doing that and then some - they don’t care.
I never got the feeling that Pogba wanted to leave United. I do think he wanted (or wants) to play for Real Madrid, and if they came in with an offer he’d happily go, but otherwise he’s totally happy in Manchester. Pogba has never acted like a player who wanted to leave at all cost. It always seemed like if he couldn’t play for Real, United was his top choice. I’m fine with that.
Everything he’s - or more specifically his agent - has been about trying to leverage the best possible contract for him.
It’s also fair to suggest that beyond money, Pogba has been hesitant to sign an extension with United because he was questioning the ambitions of the club. There’s no denying the club wasted a few years of Pogba’s prime. He was sold on being the centerpiece of this new era at a rebuilt United, only they hired the absolute worst person to conduct a rebuild.
Two and a half years later they were rebuilding again. And that rebuild was coming along a little slowly. Yes they invested heavily in defense but they left their attack very light. Pogba was noticeably happier when he returned to a team that now featured Bruno Fernandes but another light summer in the transfer market could certainly make him question how serious they were about competing.
Pogba’s not alone in feeling that way. United have been trying to extend Bruno Fernandes since last November, but Fernandes’ camp has said they won’t sign anything until Pogba extends first. He too, wants to ensure that United are continuing to be ambitious and build a winner.
In 2010 Wayne Rooney handed in a transfer request after questioning whether the club has the same ambition that he did. United want to ensure that doesn’t happen again.
Jadon Sancho is not the final piece of the puzzle, but getting the deal done early shows United were taking his importance seriously and they weren’t going to let this thing drag on all summer. The players will notice that.
Now let’s flip the script and put ourselves in Pogba’s shoes. If it’s about money, you’re not going anywhere this year. No one is coming in with a big bid for you when you have a year left on your contract.
Next year Pogba gets to leave on a free but you have to remember that no one really has money. Real Madrid don’t have money and whatever money they do have, they’re putting into the Kylian Mbappe basket. Juventus don’t have money. PSG have some money but Pogba can’t go there for sponsorship reasons.
If it’s just about living out a dream to play for Real Madrid, then Pogba will take less money to do that. If Pogba was willing to take less money, he’d have ditched his current agent by now.
If it’s about making the most money, United are probably the team that can offer him the most.
If it’s about sporting ambition then it gets a little interesting and that’s where Jadon Sancho comes back into play. United have a young team that is continuing to get better year over year. Their oldest first choice player is Harry Maguire, who’s all of two weeks older than Pogba. They have a manager with whom you have a great relationship who wants to give you freedom to move around the pitch and get the best out of you. Regardless of what you think about the manager, United are undoubtedly moving in the right direction.
Compare that with Real Madrid. They are in the process of letting BOTH their first choice centerbacks leave. The core of their team are all on the wrong side of 30. Whereas United are growing into their peak, Real Madrid are holding on to the very end and will need a blow up and rebuild within the next few years. Is that where you want to spend the rest of your prime? Rebuilding again?
PSG can’t happen for multiple reasons but beyond that this week Kylian Mbappe said that he wouldn’t be signing a new contract with them. That could be true, or could be a negotiation ploy, we don’t know - though Pogba has a relationship with Mbappe and could very well know more than we do. Nevertheless, by next year we will know if it’s true or not and if Mbappe does leave, why would Pogba want to go to a team who’s best player just left? That’s not exactly the ambition that he’d be looking for.
That’s the thing about Real Madrid. Maybe this core can hang on and win another La Liga title and Copa Del Rey before blowing things up, but if winning league titles and domestic cups were enough for Pogba he never would have left Juventus.
From a sporting perspective, Pogba wants it all. He wants to compete for the league, for the domestic cups, but most importantly, for the Champions League. Which team is in the best position to do that over the next few years?
I’m not saying that United will win the Champions League in the next few years or that Real Madrid won’t. But if you strip out the names and assess the situation who do you think has the better chance? The old core who’s on their way down or the young guys that are getting better and adding pieces? You’d take the latter too.
Jadon Sancho shows that United are taking those steps to get to the next level. Whereas everyone else is trying to shed older, more expensive, and underperforming players, United are adding talent. United are growing.
Paul Pogba is going to want to be a part of that.
lol just kidding!
But with tactics too
Which is a pretty important attribute if you want Jadon Sancho to be effective!