Jose Mourinho would not be surprised if Manchester United’s interest in Paul Pogba fails to bear fruit – and he has two alternatives lined up.
Four years on from Pogba departing Old Trafford without making a first-team start, the 23-year-old midfielder is being trailed by his former club having flourished at Juventus.
The Italian giants have reportedly turned down a world-record transfer bid for Pogba and work continues as United look to add the final piece of their jigsaw.
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward did not travel on the pre-season tour to China as United look to finish their transfer business, with manager Mourinho targeting a central midfielder to complete his squad.
PSG’s Blaise Matuidi and Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic have also been linked with moves to Old Trafford, but Pogba remains the name on everyone’s lips.
“You have smoke, you have fire – you used to say something like that, right?” Mourinho said at the team hotel in Shanghai.
“I am not going to try to make you naive and believe that we are not trying for one player.
“But we know first of all that the player belongs to another club, which is not a small club. It is also a big club, a club with economical power to fight for their best players, to try and keep their best players.
“Apart from that we know other clubs are also involved and for us it is not kind of ‘are we going to win the race or to lose the race?’. It is not a race, it is just the market.
“And when you go to the market, you have other options. You cannot focus on one, so we are in a very comfortable situation.
“My relationship with Mr Woodward is very good, it is very open. I never create this kind of situation for him that it is black or white. It is not black or white, I give him options.
“Since day one I tried to be pragmatic in my analysis, I try to give him different options so he’s not feeling the pressure that ‘I need to get this player because this is the player the manager wants’.
“The manager is trying to make things quite simple for everyone. The market is already difficult.
“My board doesn’t need that the pressure come from the manager. My board needs to be calm, feel that we have other options.
“I really need for the balance of my squad a midfield player but we have more options.”
Mourinho says 75 per cent of United’s summer business is complete having filled three of four “fundamental” areas, with central defender Eric Bailly, creative midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic having so far arrived.
A central midfielder will follow but Mourinho was at pains to stress that United are not being blinded by Pogba’s qualities – in fact, he conceded the deal may not even happen.
“We have one space for a midfield player,” the United boss said. “Everybody speaks about one, but it wouldn’t be a surprise for me if it is not him and it is another one because we went for profile.
“We have two more options in front of us and we are going to close one.”