Rio Ferdinand has urged Manchester United to ‘free’ Paul Pogba – but by giving him more responsibility on the pitch rather than selling him.
The French midfielder scored an eye-catching goal in United’s 3-1 win at West Ham on Saturday which he hopes marks a return to form following a frustrating year.
But his goal was overshadowed by comments from his agent, Mino Raiola, on Monday that Pogba’s time at Old Trafford is ‘over’.
It was far from helpful for United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of their make-or-break Champions League game away to RB Leipzig on Tuesday night.
But former United defender Ferdinand, encouraged by Pogba’s influential display at the London Stadium, hopes he is returning to something like his best.
‘I’ve got to give special mention to Pogba,’ Ferdinand told his Five YouTube channel.
‘Free Pogba, please. The guy comes in, produces a very good performance and looked like something we were accustomed to seeing when he was in a Juventus shirt or when he plays for France.
‘We’ve seen it sporadically over his career at Manchester United. That’s what you want to see consistently.
‘That’s what I want to see week in, week out from Pogba.’
Pogba, 27, was a world record £89million purchase when he returned to Old Trafford from Juventus in the summer of 2016.
He has regularly been criticised for struggling to replicate the form he showed in Italy for United, returning 34 goals and 35 assists in 170 matches since returning.
Pogba started against West Ham for the first time since United’s defeat to Arsenal on November 1 and was restricted to substitute appearances in the meantime amid competition from Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek.
Raiola threw a hand grenade into United’s preparations for the Leipzig game, where they must avoid defeat to advance into the Champions League last-16, by saying Pogba ‘has to change teams.’
The agent told Italian newspaper Tuttosport: ‘He has to change teams; he has to change the air.
‘He has a contract that will expire in a year and a half but I think the best solution for the parties is to sell him in the next market.’
Raiola added Pogba’s time at United is now ‘over’ and said: ‘It’s useless to go around it. Better to speak clearly, look ahead and not waste time.’