Five years after #PogBack, it seems as though we’re going to get #PogGone this summer.
After transfer windows of endless speculation surrounding Paul Pogba, the Frenchman’s second spell at Manchester United looks more likely than ever to come to an end very shortly. The World Cup-winner has rejected a new deal at Old Trafford, amid widely reported interest from Paris Saint-Germain.
It’s been half a decade of sheer quality in spells, a general sense of frustration, and meme-worthy whinging from Graeme Souness. But who will the Scotsman invariably demand more from now?
Well, let’s take a look at some potential replacements for Pogba at United.
First of all, it is very unlikely that a club the size of Manchester United will promote from the youth set-up to replace a name like Pogba.
However, the club have a very tidy option in 20-year-old James Garner. The youngster is a defensive midfielder by reputation, but can do so much more than simply screen.
He has thoroughly impressed for the Under-23 side in the Premier League 2, scoring a whopping eight goals in just ten appearances during the 2019/20 campaign while also managing four strikes in 20 Championship games for Nottingham Forest in the second half of last term.
He’s a threatening presence, but having played just seven times for the senior side he might not be ready for the kind of pressure that comes with Souness’ constant scrutiny just yet.
Ilaix Moriba has been incessantly likened to Pogba and, after breaking into Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona side during the 2020/21 season, did nothing to suggest such comparisons were unworthy.
The 18-year-old showed the world his raw, powerful, yet skilful and impactful style of play in his 14 La Liga appearances last term. In the 536 minutes he was granted during those showings, the teenager registered four goal contributions – one strike and three assists.
A direct goal involvement every 134 minutes in the league demonstrated his ability to burst into the final third and make things happen as well as use his strength to break up play at the other end.
However, while La Blaugrana’s financial situation could be a helping factor in securing a deal for the prospect, it has to be noted that Moriba’s progression has been aided by the fact he is slowly being immersed into top-tier first-team football – not having pressure piled on top of him to perform.
Overall Score: 3/10
At 29, Remo Freuler is by no means an up-and-coming prospect like many on this list.
However, he is without a doubt a quality midfielder and showcased some of his best football at this summer’s European Championship.
Effectively breaking up play, setting attacks in motion, and cleverly adding pressure when the opportunity arises in forward areas, he put in several classically assured midfield performances as Switzerland reached their first ever major tournament quarter final.
He undeniably lacks the X factor that Pogba has in abundance and, with 30 just around the corner, he may not be the favourite choice.
Overall Score: 4/10
19-year-old Ryan Gravenberch has also been compared to Pogba throughout his youth career, so wouldn’t it be just perfect for him to fill his boots at United?
Well, as we all know, football isn’t as simple as that.
The Dutch sensation has consistently proven his quality since properly breaking into Ajax’s first team at the start of the 2020/21 campaign, scoring three and assisting five in 32 Eredivisie appearances.
He even got selected for the Netherlands’ Euro 2020 squad this summer and showcased his quality with a commanding performance against North Macedonia.
However, for all the potential he possesses, being thrown into the Red Devils’ first XI with the expectation of filling Pogba’s role immediately may not be the wisest choice for neither club nor player.
Overall Score: 4/10
Now this would be a coup.
Having become one of the most tenacious, powerful, and all-round quality central midfielders across Europe since developing into a key member of Bayern Munich’s side, Goretzka would add vast amounts of drive into the engine room – both in defensive work and on the front foot.
To be fair, why would you be?
Overall Score: 4.5/10
This guy has been on the radars of Europe’s top clubs for a while now.
As well as Real Madrid, Manchester United have displayed an interest in 18-year-old Eduardo Camavinga – because he’s a very special talent.
The teenager has already played 67 league games for Rennes, got three caps and a spectacular goal for France, and consistently demonstrates the ability to dictate games like a seasoned player.
Predominantly preferring to sit back and create from deep, Camavinga can also drive upfield confidently and excitingly to add a spark into build up play further forward.
With an eye for the spectacular, he seems the rightful heir to Pogba within the France squad but, while he’s breathtakingly special already, United may want to think twice about giving him the burdened responsibility of taking over from their current number six at Old Trafford.
Overall Score: 5.5/10
After a slow start to life at Tottenham, Tanguy Ndombele showed us glimpses of why the club forked out around £55m for his services in the summer of 2019.
Adopting a more creative role at the beginning of the season, he regularly tormented opposition defences with skilful, progressive, and tight dribbling before adopting more thrust and drive from deep when placed alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
He may have not yet showed what he’s capable of but the Frenchman proved his outstanding attributes in spells last term and, at just 24, he’ll only get better as he spends more time in the Premier League.
Overall Score: 6/10
After a couple of sensational campaigns at Ajax, a big move to Old Trafford for around £40m has proved underwhelming for Donny Van De Beek to say the least.
Across all competitions in his maiden campaign, the Dutchman was given just 1456 minutes of game time – that’s equivalent to 16 full 90 minutes. Not great.
However, it leaves us all doubtless that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer simply hasn’t seen the best out of him. A stop-start campaign without any momentum is never going to allow for a dream debut season so, in Pogba’s absence, can Van de Beek prove himself this time around?
He’s versatile, creative, and has shown that he possesses a certain edge to his game. He may not be the most defensively minded of players, but that could be a good thing in pushing on a frighteningly stacked attack from deeper areas.
After warming the bench throughout 2021/21, he deserves some sort of chance at least.
Overall Score: 7/10
It was previously reported by 90min that Wolves were keen to sell Ruben Neves – among others – to help raise transfer funds this summer, while Manchester United added the Portugal international to their targets a long while before.
He’s been a leader wherever he’s played – even captaining Porto at just 18 – and is no stranger to the more audacious pieces of footballing skill. His goal reel will tell you that.
Neves is a proven Premier League performer and, having played in a two-man midfield for the majority of Nuno Espirito Santo’s tenure as Wolves manager, is able to undertake every facet of midfield play in an effective an tenacious manner.
At just 24 we are still yet to see the best of the Portugal international – the deal makes sense.
Overall Score: 7.5/10
Liverpool? Barcelona? United? Wherever Saul plays his football next term, it doesn’t look as though it’ll be at Atletico Madrid.
Recent reports suggest the Red Devils have in fact moved ahead of Liverpool in the race to sign the talented Spaniard and, my goodness, would he be welcomed.
He’s everything a modern fan wants in a midfielder. He’s committed, passionate, supremely gifted, and hard as nails – and, despite being around for seemingly forever, he’s still only 26.
Never giving up on collective duties, Saul is a tenacious tackler while also possessing the ability to drive his side forward with beautiful ease and elegance.
He’s already established as a top quality central midfielder and, seemingly destined for pastures new this summer, the all-round midfield maestro would fit the bill perfectly in replacing Pogba.
Overall Score: 8/10