Man Utd have Paul Pogba fear which could be Ed Woodward’s final big mistake

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Manchester United fear they could lose Paul Pogba on a free transfer next summer – and the midfielder’s exit could prove to be Ed Woodward’s final mistake. Pogba is soon to enter the final year of his contract with the Premier League giants and will be free to talk to clubs from abroad from next year’s January transfer window.

The 28-year-old was heavily linked with a move to either Real Madrid or Juventus last summer, but United stuck to their guns and held on to the France star.

Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola has insisted his client will not sign a new deal and suggested that the best solution was for the World Cup winner to leave Old Trafford.

But manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer responded to that by finding a new role for Pogba within his team, often playing him on the left side of the attack during the latter half of the season.

There has nevertheless been no progress on a new deal – raising the prospect of Pogba leaving for free next summer.

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This summer would therefore be the last chance for United to sell Pogba for a decent return on the club record £89million they paid to bring him back from Juventus in 2016.

According to ESPN, there has been no firm contact from any of Europe’s major clubs, and there are doubts over whether the likes of Madrid, Barcelona or Juve could finance a deal.

But the publication says United have not given up hope of convincing him to sign a new deal – knowing that the aforementioned clubs plus Paris Saint-Germain would find it much more attractive to land him next summer.

If Pogba ends up leaving for nothing, the failure to tie him down would be regarded as the final mistake of Woodward’s much-criticised reign in the top boardroom job at Old Trafford.

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The executive vice-chairman is to step down at the end of the year, with his departure having been announced in the immediate aftermath of United’s involvement in the failed European Super League breakaway plans.

Woodward took over from departing chief executive David Gill in 2013, having joined United’s commercial department after advising club owners the Glazers during their takeover of the club in 2005.

He has brought considerable commercial nous to United’s boardroom, but his record in the transfer market has been less successful.

Woodward oversaw a series of big-money signings which failed to bring back the glory days to United, with the club having won just one FA Cup, one League Cup and the Europa League since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager in 2013.

United have this year taken steps to improve their football operations, having appointed John Murtough as football director and former Red Devils midfielder Darren Fletcher as techinical director.

The restructuring means United have football people in charge of recruitment as they chase targets such as Harry Kane, Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

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But convincing Pogba to sign a new deal is another important challenge facing the club – even if it’s only to protect his value ahead of a move.

If he is allowed to leave for free, it will be an unsatisfactory epitaph to United’s transfer record under Woodward.

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