The Hard Tackle takes a look at three possible options that Manchester United should sign to replace Paul Pogba, whose time at the club has run its course.

A partnership that promised so much but delivered so little, Manchester United and Paul Pogba have gone their separate ways yet again this summer. Having lost him to Juventus on a Bosman move a decade ago, the Red Devils re-signed the Frenchman in a club-record deal worth £89 million in the summer of 2016.

Immediately upon his arrival, Pogba delivered, adding verve and quality to the Manchester United midfield on their way to the Carabao Cup and the UEFA Europa League triumph in his debut season under Jose Mourinho. But, that was as good as it got for the 29-year-old as his form floundered from then on, while a falling-out with the Portuguese tactician made matters worst.

Soon enough, rumours linking him with a move away started doing the rounds with Mino Raiola stirring things up with his incendiary comments in the media. Real Madrid were heavily linked, a move to PSG was mooted and a return to Juventus was also continuously touted. However, Manchester United managed to keep hold of their star midfielder, but never really coaxed the best out of him.

What made his struggles at the club level more puzzling and infuriating for the fans was that he was starring for the French national team, playing a key role in their FIFA World Cup triumph in 2018 and the UEFA Nations League last year. Yet, that level of quality and consistency was never seen at Old Trafford even though supporters caught a few glimpses of his brilliance now and then.

And after weeks of speculations, Manchester United confirmed earlier this month that they will not be renewing Pogba’s contract, meaning they lose him for a free transfer yet again. In the aftermath of his departure, the midfielder’s comments about the offer made by the Red Devils, in the “Pogmentary” have not gone down too well with the fans.

Despite the bitter end and the controversies he courted during his time at the Theatre of Dreams, Pogba was a quality player and his exit will leave a huge void in midfield for Manchester United. And new manager Erik ten Hag’s priority will be to address that issue by replacing the World Cup winner with a world-class midfielder who can come in and make an instant impact.

To that end, The Hard Tackle takes a look at three potential candidates who Manchester United should sign to replace Pogba, who could re-sign with Juventus, this summer.

Frenkie de Jong

The first and the most obvious name on our list is a player that is heavily linked with a move to Manchester United this summer. Indeed, Barcelona superstar Frenkie de Jong has emerged as the Mancunian giants’ priority transfer target for the ongoing window, and it makes total sense as well.

The 25-year-old is a top-class midfielder with experience and proven pedigree at the highest level, while his best years are still in front of him. On top of that, De Jong is a player that manager Erik ten Hag knows intimately, having helped him flourish during their time together at AFC Ajax, which should make it easy for the Netherlands international to adjust to his new team should he make the jump.

De Jong is an accomplished passer with vision and accuracy, while he is not shy of putting in the hard yards off the ball either – something that had been an issue with Pogba. In addition, the Dutchman has the ability to pick up the ball in tight spaces and make driving runs forward, potentially making him an ideal fit into this Manchester United midfield. However, the lack of Champions League football could become an issue in the transfer.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

From a player who is on the radars of Manchester United this summer to a midfielder who has eternally been linked with a move to Old Trafford over the past few years, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another player that the Red Devils could look at, to fill the void left by Pogba’s departure as a free agent.

Milinkovic-Savic has established himself as a top midfielder in Serie A and has been touted for a big move for some time now. But Lazio president Claudio Lotito’s exorbitant demands have ensured that he has stayed in Rome. However, that could be set to change this summer, with the Italian capital club in need of funds. Naturally, Manchester United are again linked, but face competition from Chelsea.

Milinkovic-Savic, 27, is a player very much in the similar mould to Pogba. The Serbian international possesses immense technical quality and boasts of a top range of distribution, while he is also capable of scoring goals. On top of that, the 27-year-old is also a physical specimen which aids him in battles in midfield and can slot into systems where intense pressing is required.

Nicolo Barella

The final name on our list of midfielders Manchester United could look to sign to replace Pogba is another midfielder from Serie A in the form of Inter Milan’s Nicolo Barella, although signing him could prove to be a difficult task this summer. 

The 25-year-old has grown into one of the foremost midfielders in Serie A over the past three years and was integral to Inter Milan’s title triumph in 2020/21. A key fixture in the Italian national side as well, Barella has shone brightly due to the immense industry and work rate he brings to the table, along with his capability to drive forward at defences with the ball at his feet.

Barella’s passing abilities often tend to go under the radar. But the former Cagliari ace is a quality distributor and is capable of spraying accurate diagonal passes or playing defence-splitting through balls. A battling box-to-box midfielder, Barella has the qualities to fit seamlessly into Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United side, and the Red Devils should consider testing the water with a bid as Inter are not in the pinkest of health financially.

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