Paul Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola disrupted Manchester United’s preparations for Tuesday’s crunch Champions League clash at RB Leipzig by claiming his unhappy client will not sign a new deal and wants to leave.
The Red Devils kicked off a crucial week with a 3-1 victory on Saturday evening at West Ham, where the 27-year-old’s stunner sparked a comeback triumph.
Pogba spoke after the match about the need for the squad to “carry on this mentality of winning”, with Manchester City due to arrive at Old Trafford four days after the make-or-break match at Leipzig.
But attention needlessly turned to the player’s future on the eve of Tuesday’s game thanks to comments from outspoken agent Raiola released as the midfielder travelled with the squad to Germany.
“There’s no use ignoring it,” he told Tuttosport. “It’s better to speak honestly, look to the future and not waste time trying to blame people: Paul is unhappy at Manchester United, he can no longer express himself as he wants to or in the way that’s expected of him.
“He needs to change team, he needs a change of scene. He has a contract that expires in a year-and-a-half’s time, in the summer of 2022, but I think the best solution would be for him to leave in the next transfer window.
— Tuttosport (@tuttosport) December 7, 2020
“Otherwise the club from Old Trafford, with whom he has a good relationship, know very well that they risk losing him on a free transfer, considering that right now he does not want to extend his deal.
“If people don’t get that, they know very little about football. In any case, they’ll all blame me if Paul leaves next summer.”
Raiola’s latest remarks provide an unwanted distraction and will not have gone down well at United, with former skipper Gary Neville expressing his anger on Twitter.
“Raiola – it’s happened many times before,” he wrote. “However, surely Paul knew he was making this announcement?
“If he wasn’t aware then we should see a quote from him very soon correcting his agent. Finally to do this ahead of Leipzig and the Man Derby is terrible timing for the Team.”
ℹ️ Group H…
👀 Predict who'll go through!#UCL
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 2, 2020
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are level on nine points with Tuesday’s hosts Leipzig and last season’s finalists Paris St Germain heading into the final Group H fixtures.
United will seal their place in the round of 16 if they avoid defeat to Leipzig, but a return to Europa League action awaits in 2021 should they falter against a side thumped 5-0 at Old Trafford in October.
“Knockout games or games like this that mean you can go through or not are big,” Solskjaer said.
“The players are here, they are Man United players, because they have qualities that we’ve looked for and I’m sure that tomorrow night will prove that’s the reason why they’re here, they will show it.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 7, 2020
“I think the character of the group is getting better and better and we’re looking forward to the game.
“It’s something that we want, games like this. It’s a tradition for Man United – we never make it easy for ourselves.
“Of course we look at the games, especially the away game against Istanbul (Basaksehir) that we could have got three points, but that’s just the way we do things.
“We do make it hard for ourselves. That’s been ever since I played and that’s a long, long time ago.”