The January transfer window is over and now the real work starts for Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick. That no new players joined the club should not come as a surprise, given Rangnick’s public comments, but there is still a huge amount of work to do at Old Trafford.
Despite the usual links to various players in January, United opted to keep their powder dry and focus on outgoing players.
Donny van de Beek (Everton), Anthony Martial (Sevilla), Amad Diallo (Rangers) and Axel Tuanzebe (Napoli) all left the club on loan.
Meanwhile, after much speculation and interest from West Ham and Newcastle, Jesse Lingard stayed put.
The result of January, then, is that Rangnick now has a smaller squad to work with. By the time the summer transfer window rolls around, it is unlikely to be him in the hot seat.
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Paul Pogba has not played for the club since the 2-2 draw with Atalanta, way back on November 2; he is yet to feature under Rangnick’s management.
A return from a thigh injury sustained on international duty with France three months ago could be close, however.
“Hopefully after the international break, when we have the cup game against Middlesbrough and the away game at Burnley, I think he could be an option,” Rangnick said last month.
Pogba’s social media accounts have been buzzing with pictures of him in training and a return appears imminent.
If that is indeed the case then the France midfielder is likely to be key to Rangnick’s efforts to hold United’s current place of fourth in the Premier League.
Playing Pogba on the left of midfield, alongside Fred and Scott McTominay, gives United an added creative presence from the middle of the pitch, taking the burden off Bruno Fernandes.
With Van de Beek hopefully getting valuable game time at Everton, the order of things is clearer now in United’s midfield.
Lingard’s unhappiness at a lack of involvement may continue – and a defensively-minded midfielder may still be needed in the summer – but for now Pogba offers a ray of light.
Like Lingard, Pogba is out of contract in July. He has been offered a new deal and has deliberately let the situation develop.
Whether he wants to stay at Old Trafford beyond the summer is irrelevant to Rangnick, who, by virtue of his own contract, is purely focused on the short-term.
That narrowed focus could prove beneficial if the duo are to come together and help United finish the season strongly.