Manchester United fans were left pinching themselves when the summer transfer window finally came to an end last week after a frantic finale, which saw them celebrate the return of Cristiano Ronaldo on top of two already impressive acquisitions.
Such has been the hype of Ronaldo’s return that the queues for his No.7 shirt haven’t shown any signs of slowing down in recent days; it will be another bumper week at the Megastore ahead or his potential second debut this weekend.
It’s been the perfect response from a club that divided opinion by labelling last season one of ‘progress’, for a club that calls itself the best in the world it’s controversial to ever take positives when there is no fresh silverware to shine.
In the last few years, the summer months have signified uncertainty at United, this year the feeling is very much of rejuvenated belief — that a title-winning side has finally been assembled again.
United’s summer business is the clearest indicator of such rejuvenation, but perhaps the greatest success has been that Paul Pogba and outspoken agent Mino Raiola have stayed awfully quiet as he enters the final year of his current deal.
Raiola claimed last December Pogba’s United career was ‘over’ and outlined his intention to engineer a transfer in the summer window, yet such an exit was effectively scuppered in the last two summer windows due to the financial impact the global pandemic had on elite clubs.
An the European Championship this summer the French midfielder would have had the perfect opportunity to broadcast a transfer plea, instead he maintained a professional approach, which so many sources at United have referenced when discussing him.
Perhaps he knew of compatriot Raphael Varane’s impeding move to Manchester, perhaps he’d seen enough last season to convince him of another year at Old Trafford, or perhaps he is simply playing the long game and a free transfer next year.
Whatever the case, it is a clear change from Pogba’s approach two years ago when he publicly outlined a desire for a ‘new challenge’ in his career.
“There is a lot of thinking [going on],” the French midfielder stated in June 2019. “I have been three years in Manchester and have been doing great – some good moments and some bad moments, like everybody, like everywhere else.
“After this season and everything that happened, with my season being my best season… it could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else.”
In the wake of those comments, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer optimistically stated Pogba’s new challenge could be handed to him by United, now it seems like that is case as they go in search of their first title since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
In the two years since, United have never looked like true Premier League title challengers, but after substantial summer reinforcement there is growing belief of a title parade around Old Trafford next May.
Solskjaer’s new long-term deal is further endorsement of the faith the club have in him, while few other sides in Europe can rival United in regards to the squad depth which now they possess.
If the goal really is for Pogba to win trophies, then there are few other clubs that can offer him the same platform of doing so quite like United over the next season.
The elephant in the room is of course Pogba’s dwindling contract length, with the 28-year-old free to negotiate with European sides in the New Year, but by January he might have been convinced of the long-term reasons to stay put.
Pogba is already settled in Manchester with a young family, his ‘dream’ move to Real Madrid has been complicated by the arrival of Eduardo Camavinga and exit of idol Zinedine Zidane, once again United is looking like the place to be.
The real test is for United to now prove to Pogba exactly why he is better off staying, although after their summer business it is perhaps he who needs to earn that contract too.