United sign Bailly, have eye on old boy Pogba

LONDON • Manchester City have left the path open for Manchester United to pursue Paul Pogba after deciding not to go for the France international as part of a summer of extensive transfer recruitment preparing for Pep Guardiola's first season in charge.

United are now weighing up whether to turn their long-standing interest in bringing Pogba back to Old Trafford into an official offer to Juventus.

Jose Mourinho, the club's new manager, is a long-term admirer of the Frenchman, having tried to sign him for Chelsea last year, and Pogba's name has featured prominently during his discussions with the United executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward.

The Portuguese made the first signing of his reign yesterday after Ivory Coast defender Eric Bailly, 22, moved from Spanish Primera Liga side Villarreal on a four-year deal, which will reportedly cost United up to £25 million (S$49.1 million).

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is widely expected to finalise a free transfer to Old Trafford in the coming weeks.

The Sweden striker's deal at Paris Saint-Germain does not expire until June 30 but his salary requirements, well in excess of £200,000 a week, should be ticked off. The only apparent complication is that his wife, Helena, is not entirely sold on the idea of moving to Manchester.

As for Pogba, the matter is not straightforward. United's desire to see their former player back in their colours has been offset by the acrimonious nature of his departure in 2012. In particular, United officials are unimpressed that he wanted to leave Old Trafford at the age of 19 and always seemed to be open to the idea of another transfer in his four years at Juventus.

United's perception, going back to David Moyes' time as manager, was that Pogba might always have a restless streak and he has never appeared fully satisfied despite being on the books of two of the world's leading clubs.

The Juventus midfield maestro would not be cheap by any measure, costing around £65 million.

The 23-year-old has also been on the radar of Barcelona and Real Madrid and his influence at Juventus presents an appealing case for United that he could be part of their midfield for the next decade.

Pogba's agent, Mino Raiola, also represents Ibrahimovic and has had several discussions with Woodward in the past few months.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2016, with the headline 'United sign Bailly, have eye on old boy Pogba'. Print Edition | Subscribe