Watch Aston Villa vs Manchester United live on Sky Sports Premier League from 8pm on Thursday; Kick-off 8.15pm
By Dan Sansom
Last Updated: 08/07/20 10:58pm
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hopeful Paul Pogba will sign a new Manchester United contract and play an important role in the club’s future success.
Pogba has long been linked with a move to Real Madrid or former side Juventus, and even admitted himself last year that he was looking for a “new challenge” in his career.
The France World Cup winner made just eight appearances in all competitions during an injury-hit season before the coronavirus lockdown, but his return to fitness and form since football resumed last month has sparked hope among many supporters that he could stay at United beyond the current campaign.
Having recently signed fellow midfielders Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay to new deals, United boss Solskjaer is optimistic the club can also secure the long-term services of Pogba – whose current contract is due to expire next year, although United do have the option of triggering a one-year extension.
“I can’t comment on discussions between players and the club but of course we want to keep the best players,” Solskjaer said.
“We want to build a squad for the future and Scott and Nemanja, they’re in similar positions but in different stages of their careers – one at the start and one really experienced one.
“We also need players in that mid-range group so hopefully we can do something. I know that since Paul came back from injury he’s looking better and better. He’s just enjoying his football and let’s see where it takes us.”
‘Realism’ in the transfer market
Solskjaer has previously admitted he is in the dark about how much money he will have to spend this summer as United cope with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
United have invested heavily over the last 12 months, spending more than £200m on Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James and Bruno Fernandes.
More arrivals are expected at Old Trafford this summer, with Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho and Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish among the club’s targets, but Solskjaer says any deals in the current transfer market must be practical.
“There’s got to be realism,” he said. “I think the whole world has changed both financially and the perception that we’ve got on values. Every time I put the case in front of Ed (Woodward) I think it’s a sensible one and it’s a realistic one.
“I think I’ve proven to the club that I’ve always got the club at the front of my mind. I don’t think short term or personally that this would fit me for a short space of time. I’ll always think long term and try to make good deals. I’m always quite careful with money – my personal money as well.”
Ole happy with Man Utd culture
United travel to Villa Park to face Aston Villa on Thursday evening – live on Sky Sports Premier League – where they will be hoping to extend their unbeaten run to 17 games in all competitions.
It is a streak that stretches back until January, and Solskjaer believes the culture at the club is one of the main reasons behind it.
A Villa vs Man Utd
July 9, 2020, 8:00pm
“We started this season really well after the players had a good break and worked well in pre-season,” he said. “Then we did well after the mid-season break in February and now we’ve done well after this lockdown so we do have a group that I can trust.
“They look after themselves, they stay together on Zoom calls or WhatsApp groups and they demand off each other because if one or two let themselves down then they let the team down. I feel very happy with the culture in that group. They’re good lads.”
Solskjaer has warned his Manchester United players that they must be “aware” of the threat posed by Jack Grealish when they visit Villa Park on Thursday.
Solskjaer is a fan of Grealish and witnessed the Villa captain score an outstanding goal in the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford in December.
Solskjaer said: “Last game they caused us some problems, both Grealish off the left and [Anwar] El Ghazi off the right. He scored a fantastic goal.
“There’s been lots said about him, and we need to be aware of him. He attracts players to him and creates space for others. There’s not just one player in that Villa team, there’s many of them.”