Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no issues with Paul Pogba and his desire to regain fitness despite the France World Cup winner’s continued absence due to injury.
Pogba has not played for United since 30 September due to a persistent ankle injury, missing 21 games for club and country in that time.
But the 26-year-old has attracted criticism for visiting Dubai and Miami as well as being filmed dancing at his brother’s wedding in Paris while he has been rehabilitating.
It has given the impression of someone not doing everything possible to get back to full fitness, but Solskjaer insists it is wide of the mark.
“For me, he is one of the best players in the world. I have always said it and you have seen what he can do on the pitch,” he said.
“But he needs to be fit. Everyone is allowed to be injured. I was out for 18 months (as a player). I was at weddings and I was ill and doing other things. I wasn’t the best dancer – not as good as Paul definitely.”
The eighth-placed Red Devils could do with the French World Cup winner back on the pitch, as they visit Watford on Sunday.
The fixture also marks the start of a run of seven games in 21 days and there is nothing Solskjaer would like to see more than a fully-fit Pogba.
“He has been out running with the fitness coach, looking over to us in training and there is nothing more disheartening. It’s a proper mental test,” Solskjaer said.
“Paul is a different person when he can play football compared to when he can’t. I think we all are.
“Sometimes you feel like you don’t contribute to your team if you are not able to play. So I am sure you will see him smile again when he’s back on the pitch.”
– Solskjaer’s way –
This week marked the anniversary of Solskjaer’s taking charge at Old Trafford.
There have been memorable wins over Tottenham, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, as well as plenty of painful defeats.
United remain in a transitional period under the Norwegian, who believes his side are moving in the right direction.
“You are learning all the time and learning about the players,” he said.
“For me it is about sticking to your principles, and do it your own way – the way you always do it.
“If that means shouting at players if they don’t like, so be it. Or being gentle on them when they maybe think I should be hard on them.