Ralf Rangnick has revealed that Paul Pogba has suffered another setback in his return from injury but at least Edinson Cavani has assured the beleaguered Manchester United manager he will stay at Old Trafford until the summer.
The interim manager had informed Cavani that he would not be allowed to leave the club during the January transfer window, with Barcelona among the clubs reportedly showing interest in the veteran.
The Uruguay international has now agreed to stay – solving one problem for Rangnick – although the situation with Pogba is beginning to look more of an issue.
The French World Cup winner is recovering from a thigh injury he collected on international duty at the start of November.
But the prediction of Rangnick’s predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he would be back before the turn of the year has proved wide of the mark.
Pogba to return from injury in February
“A week ago I was told it would take another four or five weeks,” said Rangnick.
“I’ve seen him this morning before the training session but currently I don’t know how long it will take. He’s not training with the team yet.
“As far as I know from the medical department, it will last another three weeks, four weeks and once he is then fit for training it does not necessarily mean he is also match fit.
“It will probably take a couple of weeks before he is really able to compete for the first team.”
That would put Pogba’s return date back to the end of next month, at the earliest, as he winds down what has been, by any reasonable estimate, an unfulfilled time at Old Trafford.
Cavani commits short-term future to United
At least Rangnick can rely on Cavani for Monday’s third round FA Cup tie with Aston Villa and beyond.
“I had a conversation with him yesterday, he came into my office and we spoke for almost half an hour and he told me he will definitely stay and would want to stay until the end of the season,” said Rangnick.
“Not only because I told him that he should stay or has to stay, he did it on his own behalf and he told me that I can rely on him to stay until the end of the season and give his very best and be a role model for the young players.
“If he should play from the start, he’s available and he’s happy to play.
“Even if he’s not playing, he will be trying to be the best possible role model for the other players and for me this is good news because Edi if one of those players with his vast amount of experience, with his mentality, his work ethic, I think he could really be a perfect role model for the other players.”
Jones: ‘I feel like a footballer again’
The one positive from United’s dismal defeat against Wolves last time out was the performance of Phil Jones in his first Premier League game in 712 days.
Besides David De Gea, Jones was arguably United’s best player and the 29-year-old, who has been frequently criticised during his 11 years at the club, looked emotional as he made his way down the tunnel after the game.
“It’s difficult when a player’s out for so long, for whatever reason,” he said. “All I would say is that any time I represent this club and put the shirt on, I give absolutely everything. I put my blood, sweat and tears into everything I do for this club.
“I appreciate all the support they [the fans] give me. I’m forever grateful for that. It’s a wonderful, wonderful club to be at and I am grateful.”
Jones, who has battled back from debilitating knee injuries added: “It’s been horrible at times but it’s nice to be back out with the lads. I feel like a footballer again and [to] feel the ball at your feet and the rain and the grass, it’s just a great feeling.”
Rangnick reiterates commitment to pressing
Role models appear in short supply for United, with murmurs of dressing room unrest at the club and a run of underwhelming performances under Rangnick that culminated in home defeat by Wolves at the start of the year.
The high passing energy game that was evident in Rangnick’s first game, a win over Crystal Palace, has long been abandoned by the players – if not their manager.
“This is the only way we can compete in this league and at that level,” he said.
“Whenever you watch games, even if it’s not the top teams, they play with intensity, they play with physicality, they play with energy and they sprint. This is what we have to do. We have to develop into this kind of team.
“As I said after the first game against Crystal Palace, we showed at least in the first half a lot of those things and it’s about implementing this into the team in a sustainable way.
“This is our job. We have to do it together with the players and we have, obviously, to develop the players, identify for each game, the players who are willing and able to do that and to deliver exactly what we spoke about.”