Pogba back for Middlesbrough Cup tie, Rangnick confirms
Ralf Rangnick is set to pick Paul Pogba for the first time in United's FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough, the Frenchman potentially entering the starting XI.
Paul Pogba will be available to Ralf Rangnick for the first time on Friday as the Manchester United midfielder is set to return from injury.
Pogba has not played since early November due to a groin issue sustained on international duty with France – the 28-year-old pulled up during a shooting drill. While United did not put a specific timeframe on his recovery initially, it was then revealed in early January that they were not expecting him back for at least another month.
Pogba, whose contract expires at the end of this season, spent part of his rehabilitation period in Dubai, a decision Rangnick appeared to openly question. But despite that apparent disagreement and the lingering doubts around Pogba's future at the club, Rangnick is seemingly ready to throw him straight back into the action when United face Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday – several others will be missing, though.
Pogba in the list
"Yes, Paul will be part of the group, he may even be in the starting XI," Rangnick told reporters on Thursday. "There are still a couple of players missing out: Edi Cavani will only return at the weekend. He contacted me a week ago and asked me if he could have two more days at home and I allowed him because I knew that he couldn't be in the starting XI [against Boro] anyway with the jet-lag and only coming back today or last night, so he won't be part of the group.
"Victor Lindelof has been ill the whole week and not training so will miss out, the same is true of Jesse Lingard [he has been absent from training]," Rangnick continued. "He asked for a couple days off to clear up his mind, so he will be back in the group next Monday for training and then be a regular part of the squad again. Eric Bailly came back yesterday, he has some problems, a swollen ankle, and will therefore not be a part of the squad [on Friday] but all the other players will be available."
United's squad looks rather slimmer than before the international break. With Mason Greenwood absent "until further notice" and the club allowing Donny van de Beek (to Everton), Anthony Martial (to Sevilla) and Amad Diallo (to Rangers) to depart on loan, Rangnick's options have depleted. Added to that, United did not make any first-team signings during the January transfer window, though Rangnick felt before that the squad was too large.
"As I said earlier [in January], I thought so far the group was slightly too big, too many players, too many without seeing the chance for regular game time, this is why I'm happy not only for the club but also the players," he explained. "Players like Donny, Anthony and Amad, they deserved to get regular game time. I wish them all the very best, I was in contact with all three players. Amad has already played and scored, and I'm pretty sure Anthony and Donny will do well at Everton and Sevilla and come back in the summer in good form."
Pochettino linked to United post
Rangnick was also asked about the possibility of Mauricio Pochettino taking over as coach at the end of the season, though the German – who is set to move into a consultancy role from next season – could not offer any great insight. He said: "I have no idea, my full focus is on developing and training the group right now. We have important games coming up in three different competitions. I can't give any reasonable answer to that, my focus is on the upcoming games and months."