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The £50million gamble Manchester United must take to compete for title

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Manchester United are two steps closer to recapturing the Premier League trophy for the first time in almost a decade.

It’s been eight long years since the big one last came back to Old Trafford; a triumph which marked the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

There is a sense of irony here, too, or at the very least déjà vu.

Indeed, only 12 months prior to that title victory in 2013, the legendary United manager faced a tough decision on the future of one of his potentially star players.

That, of course, was a certain Paul Pogba.

Fast forward eight years and Ferguson’s successor – one of his former charges, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – has been presented with an identical scenario this summer.

United have allowed Pogba to leave for nothing once already. It’s a gamble they must take again.

The structure of that contract decision remains the same, but the intricacies, or pros and cons, have shifted this time around. Pogba, wanting to keep his options open, has rejected fresh terms reported to be worth £50million; with controversial ‘super agent’ Mino Raiola, as predicted, at the forefront.

His charred relationship with United aside, this is a waiting game worth playing.

In each of his four seasons in Serie A, former Juventus midfielder Pogba claimed the Scudetto – and capped it off with two Italian Cup winner’s medals.

Five years later, a second League Cup and one Europa League title is not indicative of Pogba’s struggle to rekindle the form he showed in Italy, but more where United have stood as a collective.

That is where the dynamic has changed this time around.

A move four years in the making, Jadon Sancho is a United player after Borussia Dortmund finally decided to play ball and sanction his £72.9million return to the Premier League. That fee is, incidentally, almost in Pogba territory.

Sancho is set to be followed to Old Trafford by highly-decorated Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane.

Depending on what news source you consume, Pogba too was key in that move. There is a running theme here.

Much of the frustration around the mercurial French midfielder centres on his ‘inability’ to produce the displays he conjures for his national team, for whom he has won 84 caps.

Exactly why that is, though, remains up for debate.

Paul Pogba is France teammates with Man United signing Raphael Varane (left). (Image: Marcio Machado/Getty Images) However, as the United squad continues to improve this summer, perhaps that extra quality will help Pogba rise to the challenge – and become a central figure in what is now a star-studded team.

It’s very much in Pogba’s interests to keep his options open.

As far as United are concerned, though, they already understand what is is like to lose him without charge. It might cost them millions in 12 months – but put up against the damage cashing in would do to their Premier League hopes this season, that is a price worth paying.

Solskjaer and co have taken two steps forward. Ultimately, they mustn’t be pushed one step back.

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