The France national team manager has been stirring the pot with his remarks about United’s treatment of the midfielder
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has defended Paul Pogba after his comments while away on international duty, explaining the midfielder has been frustrated by his own form and lack of game time.
The 27-year-old said he had “never known such a difficult period” in his career during the latest international break, having started just five times across 12 games in all competitions this season.
“It’s a period I didn’t know in my career. Before, I used to play a lot and have rhythm,” Pogba said last week. “There (playing for France), I resume my feelings little by little, I find myself. I have to do performances like that (against Portugal), be consistent.”
His comments come after he talked up a potential move to Real Madrid during the last international break, and after a period at Old Trafford when he has struggled to hold down a spot in the starting XI following a number of disappointing performances.
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France national team boss Didier Deschamps said earlier this month that Pogba “could not be happy” with his situation at United, comments that Solskjaer feels were blown out of proportion.
“We always get questions and we try to answer as well as we can. I think the press sometimes makes more of it and people maybe at home not having the whole interview make more of it. We’re all experienced enough to try to avoid big massive headlines,” Solskjaer said.
The United manager confirmed he had spoken to Pogba upon his arrival back to the club’s Carrington training base ahead of the Premier League clash against West Brom on Saturday evening. But he hit back at Deschamps’ claims that he was playing Pogba out of position.
“I spoke to Paul today about it. Of course he’s not been happy when he’s not playing, and not playing really well. He’s not been happy with his performances,” Solskjaer explained. “He plays in the same position for France and he does for us, so that’s not a different scenario.
“It’s about getting momentum and rhythm and, as I said earlier, he felt really strong towards the end against Portugal and towards the end of the game with Sweden which is natural because he had Covid and he needed time. That’s the same with all of our players, they look stronger and fitter and he’s the same.”
Pogba’s inconsistent displays coupled with Deschamps comments have led to recurring discussions about where his best position is. Solskjaer has alternated between playing him as one of two defensive midfielders this season and on the left in a midfield diamond, but the Norwegian believes he can be effective in a variety of different spots.
“There are always discussions about players who can play in different positions because they have the quality to do so many things and they can play in different positions,” Solskjaer said. “Paul is the same, he can do the role and he has the qualities to do many things, it’s about the balance of the team, that’s on the XI you pick that day, that’s the key.
“Sometimes it’s an 8, sometimes a 10, sometimes in off the left in a diamond, sometimes one of the two, he can do everything. And now, the fitter he gets the more he can do.”