Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists Paul Pogba’s head has not been turned by Real Madrid ’s campaign to sign him – despite the midfielder’s current loss of form.
Manchester United boss Solskajer accepted there is a campaign under way from the Spanish giants to try to lure Pogba to the Bernabeu this summer.
Real are said to be preparing a bid in excess of £130million to try to prise United’s club record £89m signing Pogba away from them this summer.
Pogba’s dip in form has coincided with Real stepping up their interest in him, with the World Cup winner having failed to score in his last eight games.
But Solskajer denied Pogba has been affected by Real’s bid to land him, with the United boss adamant the flamboyant midfielder remains fully focused.
“There might be a campaign, you never know what there is,” said Solskjaer.
“But in my talks with Paul he’s always been positive. I don’t see a difference in him when I chat to him. He’s focused on performing and he’s a proud player. He always gives his best.
“He has made a difference for us in a few games, but so has Romelu [Lukaku], so has Marcus [Rashford]. There have been different players in different periods that have made the difference. It’s not just about one player. It’s not just about Paul.
“He had his highest ever output physically on Wednesday night against Barcelona , he’d never ran as much in a United shirt. That was brilliant.
“The effort and attitude is there. I thought in the first-half, we speak about Fred and Scott McTominay, but I thought Paul made us play. He settled us down a bit, in the first-half especially. We just fell away towards the end. But the effort he put in was tremendous.”
Pogba scored eight goals and provided five assists in his first 10 games under Solskajer, after being marginalised by former boss Jose Mourinho.
But he has drawn a blank, in terms of goals, in his last eight games and produced a solitary assist in that same run.
Despite Solskajer’s defence of Pogba’s display against Barcelona, the 26-year-old created little of note. He played the full 90 minutes, but was unable to produce a shot on or off target, while his pass completion rate came in at just 87.8 per cent.
He won 70 per cent of his 10 duels, but significantly made no successful tackles or clearances, and also made just one recovery of the ball.
Real’s desire to sign Pogba goes a long way to explaining his alarming loss of form, after he flourished in the early days of Solskjaer’s reign. He admitted he will need to be ruthless with his overhaul of United’s squad this summer. After 10 wins from 11 when he arrived, United have lost four of their last five games in all competitions to underline the scale of the task facing Solskjaer.
But he said he is fully aware of what he must do if he is to close the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool and turn United into title challengers again.
Up to six players – Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo and Alexis Sanchez – will leave United this summer, with Pogba’s future uncertain.
“I’m under no illusions that this is not going to be plain sailing,” said Solskjaer. “It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be survival of the fittest or survival of the best. That’s how ruthless we have to be. We need players here who are going to be able to take us forward.
“That means the culture in the dressing room and what we do every single day here to make us challenge again.
“Liverpool and City are too far ahead of us for our liking and we played against a Barcelona team that sets the standard in European football.
“As I said, we’re under no illusion that it’s going to be hard work and there will need to be some tough decisions made by me, Mick and the club.”