Neil Humphreys: Manchester United should cut losses and sell Paul Pogba
AWOL midfielder damaging club's credibility
Paul Pogba requires surgery now. Of course he does.
As the shutters go up on the transfer window, the Manchester United midfielder goes down like last week's leftover turkey.
The Frenchman may have a legitimate ankle injury, just as the Red Devils may have a legitimate defence worth almost £200 million (S$356.5m).
Based on the latest, sketchy evidence, however, both claims should be taken with an ocean of salt.
After yesterday morning's (Singapore time) dismal defeat at Arsenal, a strangely ebullient Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted that all was right in the wacky world of United.
He was wide-eyed and smiley again, just happy to be messing around in one of the world's biggest playgrounds.
But it's not child's play with Pogba, not anymore.
The AWOL maverick continues to run rings around his baby-faced manager, which is quite a feat considering no one can remember the last time Pogba ran rings around anyone on a pitch.
The midfielder has played just eight times this season and has not started since Sept 30, due to that stubborn ankle injury.
Pogba's "people" have now determined that he requires surgery, which rules him out of the month of the transfer window - otherwise known as January.
The identities of Pogba's people are uncertain. Even Solskjaer seems at a loss.
He did not mention specific names. He certainly did not reference anyone at the club.
He did not appear to know how long his most expensive footballer might be out of action. Three weeks? Four weeks? He really did not know.
This was a matter for Pogba's "people", he said.
Solskjaer later backtracked and said the club were fully in the loop and United's medical team agreed that surgery was required. But still the perception persists.
In the classic movie Die Hard, patronising FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) agents turn up, take charge of the hostage situation and inform the bumbling police chief on site that they will try to inform him of their intentions, if they can be bothered.
Solskjaer now looks like that bumbling police chief.
He's starting to sound like him too, insisting that everything is on track, despite losing 2-0 at Arsenal with an overpriced and underwhelming back four and having little clue about his missing midfielder.
With Scott McTominay now ruled out for two months, Pogba's dubious absence not only exacerbates United's midfield crisis, but also undermines his nominal manager.
As Solskjaer loses his way with Pogba, he reminds disillusioned supporters that the "Manchester United way" requires more than a club blazer and friends in the right TV studios.
Solskjaer reveres Sir Alex Ferguson, but he's looking like Robin to the old Scotsman's avenging Batman. The Norwegian's gleeful "gee, this is such a swell job" routine exposes his inexperience.
Pogba's agent is openly mocking the manager's inability to take charge of an interminable situation.
Mino Raiola castigated United for being "a club out of touch with reality" and one that "would even ruin (Diego) Maradona, Pele and (Paolo) Maldini".
Raiola went further, claiming that Pogba needed a proper club like Juventus.
In Ferguson's era, those remarks would have been interpreted as Pogba's obituary. Both the midfielder and his avaricious agent would have suffered the wrath of a Scotsman always eager to reassert the balance of power within his autocracy.
The days of Ferguson's personal fiefdom may be done, but United's inaction has allowed Raiola to gnaw away at the club's self-respect like a crab attacking a beached whale.
To add insult to Pogba's injury, that imbalance of power is even more pronounced on the pitch. Against Arsenal, Marcus Rashford kept making the same runs, anticipating an incisive ball that never came.
Nemanja Matic and Fred are not blessed with Pogba's vision. He splits lines as easily as he splits opinion.
And he knows it. So does the insufferable Raiola. The pair have come to encapsulate player power in the most literal sense.
The Red Devils truly need Pogba more than he needs them.
And for that reason, paradoxically, he's got to go.
Pogba's "people" cannot continue to dictate both the news agenda and the player's fitness status, while treating Solskjaer and the club as an afterthought.
Whatever playing benefits Pogba might bring in the future no longer outweigh the damage he is doing to the Solskjaer regime now.
It's a question of credibility.
A United manager that loses control of a player to an agent essentially loses control of the club.
Christmas is over. It's time for Solskjaer to close the Pogba pantomime.