Who should Manchester United replace Paul Pogba with?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — AUGUST 05: Paul Pogba of Manchester United in action during the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg match between Manchester United and LASK at Old Trafford on August 05, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

It’s been the story that has been circling around Old Trafford for the last 3 years, will Pogba stay at Manchester United? With 1 year left on his contract, you would think the club would have re-signed a player of Pogba’s caliber by now. However, what has been all too common, Pogba has not extended his contract while his agent has created far too many headlines about potential clubs interested in Paul.

For me, if Pogba wanted to stay then he would’ve extended his contract at the end of the 2019–20 season when United qualified for the Champions League and they finished 3rd. That would have shown confidence in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as well as confidence in the team that they were heading in the right direction.

United are in a difficult situation as is, with Pogba looking to run down his contract. For me, this has to be sorted as soon as possible, because with a player that has as much quality as him, we should never be looking to sell him for nothing. Cash in for him now and then find a replacement.

But that’s easier said than done. Pogba is a specific kind of midfielder, who usually operated on the left hand side of the double pivot in Solskjaer’s 4–2–3–1 system. There’s no question about Pogba’s ability; he’s a big lad who uses his body to his advantage in 1v1s, as well as contesting for the ball in the air, his playmaking skills are elite (both inside and outside the box) and his passing range is also superb, particularly when he is creating from deep.

So let’s say hypothetically, Manchester United sold him and got roughly ₤60–75 million for him. Who should the replacement be? For me there are 3 options; Sergej Milinković-Savić, Ruben Neves, or Donny Van de Beek.

Sergej Milinković-Savić

KALININGRAD, RUSSIA — JUNE 12: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic of Serbia poses for a portrait during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session at on June 12, 2018 in Kaliningrad, Russia. (Photo by Matthias Hangst — FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

I recall us being linked to this guy back when José Mourinho was the manager of United and you can’t blame him, particularly after the season he’s had with Lazio in Serie A.

This season, Milinković-Savić started and played in all 32 games for Lazio in Serie A this season, registering 8 goals and 9 assists. He primarily played on the right of Lazio’s midfield 3, in the 3–5–2 system deployed by then manager Simone Inzaghi.

This season, Milinković-Savić was what Pogba struggles to be, consistent. This season, he recorded an average SofaScore rating of 7.18 in Serie A. In comparison, Paul Pogba recorded an average SofaScore rating of 6.98 in the Premier League.

From a statistical comparison, Milinković-Savić had a significantly better season than Pogba. Using WhoScored, the site compares the two players based on three areas of the game; Offensive, Defensive and Passing.

Below are the two player’s statistics in the Offensive area this season:

Offensive Stats (Pogba vs Milinković-Savić)

Mins: Minutes played

Goals: Total goals

Assists: Total assists

SpG: Shots per game

KeyP: Key passes per game

Drb: Dribbles per game

Fouled: Fouled per game

Off: Offsides per game

Disp: Dispossessed per game

UnsTch: Bad control per game

Below are the two player’s statistics in the Defensive area this season:

Defensive Stats (Pogba vs Milinković-Savić)

Mins: Minutes played

Tackles: Tackles per game

Inter: Interceptions per game

Fouls: Fouls per game

Offsides: Offside won per game

Clear: Clearances per game

Drb: Dribbled past per game

Blocks: OutfielderBlockPerGame

OwnG: Own goals

Below are the two player’s statistics in the Passing area this season:

Passing Stats (Pogba vs Milinković-Savić)

Mins: Minutes played

Assists: Total assists

KeyP: Key passes per game

AvgP: Passes per game

PS%: Pass success percentage

Crosses: Crosses per game

LongB: Long balls per game

ThrB: Through balls per game

For me, if Pogba leaves, Milinković-Savić has got to be our number one target. Based on this season, Sergej has performed at a much better level and consistently too. Further, his price is being quoted at ₤60 million by Transfermarkt, which is only another incentive to sell Pogba as soon as possible. Further, Sergej is 26, and he’s still getting better. Pogba is 28 and is still struggling to perform consistently at an elite level.

Ruben Neves

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND — AUGUST 19: Ruben Neves of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United at Molineux on August 19, 2019 in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

While he may not be everybody’s first choice, there’s no question that Ruben Neves has got the potential to be a solid Central Midfielder. He’s only 24, with a lot of time to grow and he would be a cheaper alternative to Milinković-Savić, with Transfermarkt quoting his value at roughly ₤38.5 million.

Neves, for me, is ready to move to a big club. This season for Wolves, according to SofaScore, he was their best player, with an average Match Rating of 7.13 in the Premier League, again much better than Pogba’s 6.98.

Ruben Neves is an all-rounder, in that he is solid both offensively and defensively, as his passing range as well as his long shot ability is super. His qualities are reflected in his WhoScored statistics. Neves started 31 of the 36 games for Wolves this season, registering 5 goals and 1 assist. He primarily played on the Right of the double pivot of then Wolves’ manager, Nuno Espírito Santo’s 3–4–3 system.

This season, as reflected in his average SofaScore rating, Neves had a better season than Pogba and again, like Milinković-Savić, he was consistent. Using WhoScored’s three aspect player comparison tool, it is clear that Neves is definitely capable of filling Pogba’s position in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s 4–2–3–1 system at United.

Below are the two player’s statistics in the Offensive area this season:

Offensive Stats (Pogba vs Neves)

Below are the two player’s statistics in the Defensive area this season:

Defensive Stats (Pogba vs Neves)

Below are the two player’s statistics in the Passing area this season:

Passing Stats (Pogba vs Neves)

For me, Neves would be a decent signing due to the balance he would bring to our midfield, particularly if we also signed Eduardo Camavinga. Neves is disciplined defensively and he would allow players like Bruno Fernandes and Camavinga to advance forward. It also allows Solskjaer to be more tactically flexbile, as Neves can play as a CDM.

Donny van de Beek

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — SEPTEMBER 09: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Donny van de Beek of Manchester United in action during a first team training session at Aon Training Complex on September 09, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Surprised? To be honest, I am surprised that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer didn’t play him that much in the 2020–21 season, considering how good his last season at Ajax was in the 2019–20 season. Living in Perth, Australia I unfortunately can’t watch as many games of United as I would like, however I recall the game against Southampton away when Donny played. I thought he was superb. Donny’s energy, pressing and passing was at an elite level that was lacking from our usual midfielders in Fred and Scott McTominay.

Van de Beek certainly has the quality to replace Paul Pogba, otherwise why did the club sign the lad? In the 2019/20 season for Ajax, van de Beek registered an average SofaScore match rating of 7.32 which is impressive. He played 23 games, starting 22 of them, where he scored 8 goals and got 5 assists.

Not only did van de Beek have a stellar season in the Eredivisie, but he also had a super campaign in the 2019–20 Champions League for Ajax, where he also recorded an average SofaScore match rating of 7.32, making him Ajax’s 4th best player in the tournament.

Donny for me is the complete midfielder and this is a result of him coming through the Ajax academy where they teach the midfielders how to play in every midfield position whether it is CDM, CM or CAM.

Using WhoScored to compare Donny’s 19/20 season with Pogba’s season this year, it is clear that there is definitely a reason why van de Beek is more than capable of replacing Pogba.

Below are the two player’s statistics in the Offensive area:

Offensive Stats (Pogba vs van de Beek)

Below are the two player’s statistics in the Defensive area:

Defensive Stats (Pogba vs van de Beek)

Below are the two player’s statistics in the Passing area:

Passing Stats (Pogba vs van de Beek)

While van de Beek may not have the flashy tricks and flicks Pogba has, he is a midfielder that gets it done and he still has a lot of potential to fulfill. If given the opportunity, I think van de Beek could be a very important and successful player for Manchester United

Who would I pick?

Donny van de Beek

For me it just makes sense, as it saves the club money as he is already in the squad but he deserves to have a chance in the midfield next season, whether it is in a deeper position or somewhere higher up. If he is given a consistent run of games, then he will show is quality and why big clubs like Real Madrid showed a huge amount of interest in him.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — NOVEMBER 24: Donny van de Beek of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League Group H stage match between Manchester United and Istanbul Basaksehir at Old Trafford on November 24, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

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