Ralf Rangnick says Paul Pogba will be determined to return with a bang for Man Utd and suggested the chance to earn a new deal elsewhere could even form part of his motivation.
Having left for Juventus in 2012 and rejoined for a then world record fee four years later, the midfielder will again be leaving Old Trafford this summer unless he signs an extended contract.
Pogba has been the subject of widespread speculation throughout his time at Man Utd, with the midfielder saying he could be ready for a new challenge in 2019 and agent Mino Raiola making numerous comments about his client.
Paris St Germain have reportedly started talks about a summer switch with the France international, who returned to training on Monday for the first time since sustaining a thigh injury in November.
Rangnick hopes to have him back for the FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough in early February and was impressed by his “extraordinary” first session, with the interim boss unconcerned by any suggestion his heart would not be in it.
Asked if there was any point playing Pogba given his United contract expiring and the club are looking to the future, Rangnick said: “Yes, of course.
“I also played Nemanja Matic now in the last games and his contract is also expiring. By the way, my contract as a manager is also expiring in the summer.
“So, for us, we have the same goal, we have the same ambition to be as successful as we can possibly be in the next three or four months.
“For me, it’s not a question if a player has an expiring contract. The question is how much does he still want to be a part of this group? How much does he still feel emotionally and physically on board?
“And as long as this is the case, why shouldn’t Paul Pogba now after two and half months of injury, being fully fit again now and he also wants to show up?
“He wants to show the fans of Manchester United, the board, the whole world what kind of player he can be, and even if it’s for only showing up for a new contract elsewhere, I mean, he will be highly motivated to do that. Why should I then not play him?
“But then, as I said, there is a difference of how do players deal with their current situation? How do they handle that?
“If they handle that in a professional way, in an ambitious way, of course I can and I will play players although they have a contract expiring in the summer.”
Pogba is not the only one with something to prove at struggling Man Utd.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 18, 2022
Cristiano Ronaldo questioned the group’s mentality in the build-up to Saturday’s Premier League trip to Aston Villa, where United blew a two-goal lead and drew 2-2.
Rangnick claimed Anthony Martial refused to travel to Birmingham after that match. The 26-year-old has made no secret of his desire to leave but took to Instagram to refute the interim manager’s suggestion.
“I said all that needs to be said about that after the game,” Rangnick said.
“I nominated him before the game and he was not part of the group. You can draw your own conclusions out of that.
“I had a conversation with him on Sunday about all this and, for me, from my perspective, everything has been spoken about, has been resolved and no need to add anything on top of that.”
Martial’s situation is among a number of matters on and off the pitch facing Man Utd.
Jadon Sancho’s stuttering start to life at Old Trafford since his big-money switch from Borussia Dortmund is one such concern and Rangnick hopes they will soon see the best of the 21-year-old.
“Difficult to say (why things are not working out for him), I think,” he said. “It’s a different league, it’s a different competition.
“It’s more physical, it’s more pressure, although he also played for one of the biggest clubs in Germany, in Dortmund, but I think in total, the whole league, the whole competition is more physical and the level of expectation is higher.
“When he came to Borussia Dortmund as a young player, he was only 18. Now he’s 23, 24, playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world.
“I think it’s also got to do with a lot of different things in his head.
“But in training, whenever I see him train, he’s showing that he’s one of the best players in the training sessions.
“But now it’s about the transfer to when he’s playing, and to showing to the same kind of level and performance on the pitch.”