Paul Pogba has recently been linked with a move away from Manchester United once more, but it’s clear the midfielder is an integral part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans.
Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane are reportedly admirers of Pogba, leading to questions whether it is worth United fighting to keep the player.
But we’ve taken a look at what Solskjaer has said about Pogba since he has taken over at Old Trafford – and it’s clear he would be loath for United to lose the France international for a second time.
Even before Solskjaer took over at Old Trafford, the manager was speaking highly of Pogba while in charge of Molde.
Speaking ahead of Molde’s Europa League qualifier against Hibernian in the summer, he was asked about Pogba’s situation at United.
“I would [build the team around him], absolutely no doubt,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports. “I had him with David [Gray] and Etzaz [Hussain], who is playing for me tomorrow.
“That just shows how far the kid has come. Paul is a fantastic kid so hopefully we can build the team around him and keep him.”
The improvement in Pogba’s displays was immediate following Solskjaer’s appointment, and the manager gushed about the player he coached for United’s reserves after he scored twice in a 3-1 win over Huddersfield on Boxing Day.
“That’s the Paul I know and I have known since he was in the reserves and youth team,” Solskjaer said. “He’s always been a happy boy, big smile on his face and when you score two you’re happy and he should be.
“Paul loves playing for this club, he’s a Man United boy through and through and he knows what it means to play for Manchester United.”
It didn’t take long after Solskjaer took temporary charge before he deployed the ultimate football cliche.
“I think Paul is a top, top player,” he said prior to United’s clash with Bournemouth in December. “One of the top players in the world attacking wise.
“He’s a big lad, he can win headers and tackles. He’s been the same as the others, to be fair. The attitude has been perfect and that’s key – you should be tired towards the end of every single game.
“He’s been top class. He’s someone we’re looking to build the team around of course, but we’ve got many quality players.”
Mourinho may have stripped Pogba of the vice captaincy earlier this season, but Solskjaer has spoken up the player’s leadership qualities.
“I know the boy from before and he is a leader,” he said in January.
“He influences people. He cares and really wants to be successful.”
Solskjaer has played down his impact on Pogba’s form, downplaying his own management after United’s 3-0 win over Fulham in February.
“I’ve not released those [qualities], he is playing to his potential, we are trying to put this team forward to put players in positions to where we can hurt teams,” he told Sky Sports.
“We know Paul can do that with his physicality, energy, strength into the box, is going to cause problems. I speak to him like I do with the others, it’s about getting the best out of players, that’s management.
“He’s responding to the way we do things now, onto the next one.”
Speaking again after the win over Fulham, Solskjaer was asked how Pogba’s improved form compared to his United team-mates.
“I don’t really like to compare players,” Solskjaer said. “But I know that Paul is in good form, in a good place at the moment.
“His attacking play, when he arrives in the box, there is always going to be a chance of scoring a goal, or an assist or a goal. Great finish [for the] first one. I have to say I don’t think I would have hit it like he did, so fantastic goal!”
Pogba has often attracted scrutiny for his use of social media, specifically in the wake of Mourinho’s sacking, and Solskjaer revealed in February that he had asked the player to alter his use of such platforms.
“Paul has always been a larger-than-life character. He has a fantastic family, but you don’t do yourself any favours,” Solskjaer said when discussing the spotlight brought onto players through social media.
“You don’t want to give anyone an excuse really so, of course, you don’t go to the Brit awards this week.
“We know leading up to the other game against Liverpool there were stories about players not being focused. It is not about that.
“We know they are focused, we know they are doing their best, but he does help himself by toning it down a bit and that is just Paul being Paul.
“Knowing him he wants to win, he wants to be the best. You would be surprised by the number of minutes he’s played. Apart from David and maybe Nemanja he has played the most minutes for us in the league.
“There was a perception that Jose left him out all the time. Maybe he does not have the energy to do it. Who knows?”
Pogba’s stuttering penalty technique has been a hot topic at times this season, but Solskjaer defended the 26-year-old after he converted from the spot against Brighton
“He has scored quite a few goals hasn’t he, so if he’s comfortable with it, as long as the ball goes in the net.
“I wouldn’t have done it that way, but the way he strikes the ball is good enough.”
And Solskjaer stuck to the message even after Pogba missed a spot-kick against Southampton.
“I just said to him there, ‘Get ready for the next one, because you’re gonna take that as well,’” Solskjaer said.
“I’ve missed penalties. He’s a confident boy, he wants to go and take the next one, you want that character and today was one of the ones he really blasted them, he normally just places them, so he’ll be okay.”
The arrival of Solskjaer in the Old Trafford dugout has seen Pogba become much more involved in attack, but the Norwegian suggested the midfielder could switch roles at times for the Red Devils following a jaded display in a victory against Watford.
“Paul is important to us,” he said. “We couldn’t keep the ball today and, as I’ve said it was probably 50-50 possession and, at home, we’re a bit disappointed with that.
“Paul has been away and he’s played two games for France. Of course, he’s playing a bit deeper for them and that might be something we have to think about to get him more involved in the game, make him dictate games more for us.
“That’s from game to game. As you can see, Paul can do both. He can attack and defend.”
After Pogba was quoted describing Real Madrid as “a dream club for every player” and Zinedine Zidane flirted with his compatriot, Solskjaer dismissed speculation linking the midfielder with a move to the Bernabeu.
“He didn’t talk about himself,” Solskjaer said of Pogba’s comments. “He said anyone would like to play for Real Madrid.”
And the manager reasserted just how highly he thinks of the France international.
“Paul is happy here, he’s playing well,” said Solskjaer. “He’s going to be a big, big part. You’d like to build your team around him and that hasn’t changed at all.”
Pogba’s recent form for United has come under scrutiny after below par displays against Watford and Wolves, but he received the backing of his manager despite just one assist and no goals in his last six Premier League appearances.
“Well today he could have easily had an assist when the great play with him and Rom [Lukaku] so that’s just figures and numbers,” Solskjaer said.
“Paul’s working as hard as any of the players in the team. Some days it just doesn’t come off.”