Rashford fought in front of TV cameras after the penalty shoot-out loss to Villarreal with a heated speech about the progress United had made under Solskjaer.
It was shocking to see the usually gentle and gentle Mancunian in such an abrasive mood. Perhaps he was making up for his listless attacking performance against Villarreal.
But Rashford wasn’t the only one to underperform in the spotlight in Gdansk and Pogba hardly deserved to get hooked.
It was a generally disappointing performance from the Frenchman on the kind of stage he has lit up in the past. Ander Herrera won the Man of the Match award when United won the Europa League in 2017 with a victory over Ajax, but Pogba scored and was influential in that game. A year later, he led the World Cup final under the colors of France.
And it looked like he was keeping his best results for United this season for the knockout games, having impressed in previous Europa League rounds against AC Milan and Roma. He had been nearly unplayable against old opponent Jose Mourinho in United’s best league win of the season, 3-1 at Tottenham.
But Pogba being Pogba still means the strange fallow period is approaching. It’s blowing hot and cold, and it was the worst time for the 28-year-old to shut up – not just because it meant the Europa League trophy was slipping away from United under agonizing circumstances.
The whole debate after the final was whether David de Gea had played his last game in a United shirt, so did Juan Mata. But it is not impossible that this is also Pogba’s last dance.
It seems to have been largely forgotten that Pogba is heading into the final year of his United contract, amid the strongest clues from his agent Mino Raiola that he may well leave. Pogba has had a decent season at United – among his strongest in five years since returning to Old Trafford – but the appetite to move on has always been there, simmering in the background.
Whether United choose to cash in or let Pogba’s contract end until it expires and lose it for free in June 2022 is now more of a dilemma than before.
Losing a European grand final should always mean more rearranging of furniture than if it had been won. There seemed to be a near universal agreement from supporters that keeping a rejuvenated Pogba for another year was worth the financial blow.
Now, with the 28-year-old still with some resale value, and Solskjaer indicating the squad need to cool off this summer, what should United do?
Are they keeping Pogba for a year in the hope that he can return them to that long-awaited league title? Or are they selling, reinvesting and targeting someone like Declan Rice? Pogba’s performance against Villarreal may have already given the club a clue.
United’s transfer need is in the defensive midfield, where Rice could challenge Fred and Scott McTominay for a place, and they are stacked well with Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek in the attacking midfield.
In this regard, Pogba has always been the strangest one and should come as no surprise that his positioning is once again a major headache for United after Gdansk. Solskjaer took a bet playing Pogba alongside McTominay against Villarreal, dropping Fred. He then belatedly returned to the strategy that has largely worked this season and sidelined Pogba. By this point United were tired and the game was already turning towards penalties.
It seems relevant that this question of Pogba’s best position still hasn’t really been answered, at a time when United will be asked what to do with their maverick World Cup winner.
In 2018, whispers about Pogba’s future were heard for the first time. In 2019, they clung to him amid interest from Real Madrid. In 2020, injuries from Covid-19 and Pogba allowed him to stay at Old Trafford.
In 2021, the answers may finally be coming.