'Hunger and appetite' - Ole Gunnar Solskjaer defends Paul Pogba ahead of Manchester United's derby clash with City
French World Cup winner's agent said his player would leave Old Trafford
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has come to the defence of midfielder Paul Pogba amid fresh speculation about his future at Old Trafford.
The 27-year-old has done little to extinguish talk about a transfer away from the north west and publicly expressed his openness to a move in June 2019.
Pogba's agent Mino Raiola has repeatedly stoked the fire and, to the anger of the club, spoke in an interview on the eve of the crunch Champions League clash at RB Leipzig last week about his client's unhappiness.
Raiola claimed the French World Cup winner would not sign a new deal beyond 2022, leading Solskjaer to say after the costly 3-2 loss in Germany that he hoped the agent realised football is about teams rather than individuals.
Pogba scored a deflected effort in a positive display off the bench at Leipzig and will be in the squad for Saturday's derby clash with Manchester City.
"I think I said during the week, of course, that this is a team game and Paul is part of this team," Solskjaer said.
"He's very focused on contributing when he's here. He's got the hunger and appetite to play, and he wants to play. He wants to train, he trains.
"There's been other players that's been refusing to train, refusing to play - and they're not here any more, of course. But Paul's not once done that.
"He's just focused on performing when he gets a chance and that's the good thing about Paul, that he's got the quality but he's also got the desire to do well when he comes on, like he did against Leipzig.
"He did have a positive impact so, yeah, the short answer to your question is he's part of the squad for tomorrow."
Where could Pogba go?
Solskjaer has worked to change the culture within the United dressing room since succeeding Jose Mourinho in December 2018, when the 1999 treble hero made a shock return to his former club initially as caretaker boss.
Handed the reins on a permanent basis the following March, things have rarely stayed smooth for long and the Norwegian is under pressure once again following United's embarrassing Champions League exit.
"There's always pressure on you when you manage Man United," Solskjaer said. "That's something I had to think about when I accepted the role.
"Do I have what it takes to be in such a situation? Can you handle setbacks? Can you handle success? And I think I can. I think I can in a good way.
"I've got great staff around me, fantastic staff, that I use as sparring partners for discussions, even the conversation with the club it goes on all the time.
"It's a continuous open dialogue and when you come to work the next day or you have a day off, you see the players and the quality you have and you want to work with them."
Published: December 12, 2020 08:36 AM