Manchester United must begin to prepare for life after Paul Pogba, with the midfielder poised to leave the club this summer.
Pogba’s contract will expire on July 1 and with every day that passes it is looking increasingly likely that he will leave Old Trafford on a free transfer.
Pogba re-joined United from Juventus in a blockbuster world-record transfer worth £89million in August 2016.
The France international is now 28 years old and it is fair to say the reality has not matched the expectation with Pogba.
He is a hugely naturally talented midfielder who, on his best days, has every aspect you could hope for in his position.
But a tally of 39 goals and 50 assists from 223 appearances for the club across all competitions feels insufficient for a player of his ability.
Nevertheless, his departure from United this summer will leave a significant hole in the team.
Manchester Evening News reports that Pogba has ‘no inclination’ to change his mind and sign a new contract with United and the feeling is mutual.
Pogba has been in good form since returning from a thigh injury and has held productive conversations with interim manager Ralf Rangnick recently.
He is appreciated by fans at Old Trafford, but we are entering the end game, with Pogba thinking about his next move and the club considering replacements.
United are currently on course to qualify for the Champions League next season, sitting fourth in the Premier League, but it seems likely they will end a fifth straight campaign without a trophy.
The only significant silverware Pogba has won at the club came in the 2016/17 season, when Jose Mourinho won the Europa League and Carabao Cup.
It may be too late for Pogba now, who could go and earn £510,000 per week at PSG, according to The Independent, or join a rival Premier League side, as per The Telegraph.
But that barren run of success should act as encouragement for United, who need to ensure Pogba’s departure doesn’t contribute to another spell of underwhelming seasons.
Pogba has shown in the past few games just how important he can be for Rangnick’s side, scoring in the 1-1 draw against Burnley and assisting in the 2-0 win over Brighton.
Despite being out injured for three months of the season, Pogba leads United for assists in the Premier League this season.
He has eight assists in just 12 appearances in the competition – an impressive tally that puts him level with West Ham star Jarrod Bowen and Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson and behind only Trent Alexander-Arnold (10) and Mohamed Salah (9).
Bruno Fernandes is the next closest for United on five assists, although the fact he has created 12 big chances suggests he has been let down by poor finishing from his team-mates.
Fernandes is the most likely player to step up once Pogba’s gone, but United could really do with another creative presence in midfield, especially from deep.
The most frequent midfield partnership of Scott McTominay and Fred is more geared towards defending than attacking.
Nemanja Matic is also defensively-minded, Jesse Lingard is out of contract in July and Donny van de Beek has been sent out on loan to Everton.
United need new blood and must consider a replacement for Pogba a priority this summer, behind only the current search for a manager.
They have been linked with a whole host of names – from Brighton’s Yves Bissouma, via Leicester’s Youri Tielemans to West Ham’s Declan Rice.
But there is a sense that the players most frequently mentioned in transfer reports are those who would be more suited to a deeper role; they are players who could replace or challenge McTominay and Fred for a place in the starting line-up.
When he has played this season, Pogba has proven he is an efficient creator. United need to replace that aspect, as well as addressing their long-standing need for a defensive midfielder.
It should not be seen as a situation of either or. To take a step forward next season under a new manager, United need an overhaul of their midfield.