Football: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists Paul Pogba's a big part of his plans at Manchester United

Paul Pogba praying before the EPL match against Watford last Saturday. He has regained his influence in the team since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took charge in December.
Paul Pogba praying before the EPL match against Watford last Saturday. He has regained his influence in the team since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took charge in December.PHOTO: REUTERS

United boss unfazed by Real's links to French star, happy to work with director of football

LONDON • Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has played down rumours of Paul Pogba leaving for Real Madrid and reiterated that the France midfielder remains "a big, big part" of his plans.

Pogba, who last week described Real as a "dream" club while speaking to the media on international duty, was praised by the Spanish LaLiga team's coach Zinedine Zidane during the weekend.

Zidane said that he liked Pogba "a lot", further fuelling speculation that the 26-year-old may one day leave Manchester for Madrid.

Speaking at a pre-match conference ahead of today's Premier League trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Solskjaer said: "I don't like to talk about other teams' players (like Zidane did with Pogba) but this is another challenge with international breaks. Players are available all the time.

"It's a different environment, it's more of a general talk and Paul is a very nice and polite man who answered a general question.

"Zidane is an icon in France, Zidane is a fantastic manager, he used to be a fantastic player - I played against him myself - and Paul has just politely answered that question (about playing for Zidane).

"Paul's happy here and he's going to be a big, big part. I've always said that you'd like to build your team around him and that hasn't changed at all."

Following his appointment last week on a three-year deal, the Norwegian - who expects his assistant Mike Phelan to also be given a permanent deal soon - has admitted that there have been plans to bring in a director of football at Old Trafford.

"Football has changed and the structure at football clubs has changed. That's just the way football goes," he said.

"Me and Ed (Woodward, executive vice-chairman) and Joel (Glazer, co-chairman), we are looking at how can this club be ran as smoothly and as well as possible.

"We'll see what the club will end up with and I'm happy talking and discussing football with knowledgeable people in the right positions.

"I'm feeling older and older, 46 is a good number. I think the demands of football nowadays means you've got to split responsibilities."

Solskjaer, who was roped in as caretaker manager in December, won his first match as permanent boss with a scrappy 2-1 league victory over Watford last Saturday.

Today's clash with Wolves presents yet another difficult task in United's top-four bid, having lost to the same opponents in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

When asked if there were lessons learnt following that defeat last month, Solskjaer said: "Quite a few and of course we have to (learn).

"Last time we didn't play well enough... If we turn up and don't perform to our level against a good team, we will not get the result we deserve."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2019, with the headline 'Ole insists Pogba's a big part of his plans'. Print Edition | Subscribe