Clubs, English Premier League, Manchester United, Paul Pogba, Story

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Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has defended Paul Pogba and said the midfielder’s professionalism should not be questioned as the he prepares to return to the club to step up his recovery from an ankle injury.

Pogba has not played for United since the 1-1 draw against Arsenal on Sept. 30, but the France international is due to train in Manchester on Friday after completing his rehabilitation in recent weeks in Dubai and Miami.

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The former Juventus player was criticised on social media for posting images of himself playing basketball with Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler last week.

United sources have told ESPN that Pogba has been working with a bespoke fitness plan, however, and Solskjaer said he has no issues with the 26-year-old, who could make a first-team return against Tottenham next Wednesday.

“Every player is allowed to be injured when he’s injured and Paul is working hard to be back,” Solskjaer said. “No one can doubt his professionalism, his willingness or his desire to play football.

“He’s a footballer and he’s one of the best midfielders in the world and [having him back] will be like signing a new player before the transfer window opens.

“Of course we’ve missed him when he’s been away. Some of the players — Scotty [McTominay] and Fred — have taken up that challenge and have done well but, of course it’s a boost for us when he comes back.”

United face Aston Villa at home on Sunday with the majority of the first-team squad spared the lengthy Europa League trip to Kazakhstan, which resulted in a 2-1 defeat against FC Astana on Thursday.

But while Pogba is fit to return to training, Solskjaer said the Villa clash comes too soon for him to be considered. An encounter with Jose Mourinho and Spurs remains a possibility, however.

“Sunday, no,” Solskjaer said. “Spurs? I can’t say now, because I’ve not been home and seen him.

“Let’s see where he’s at when he comes back and starts training with us. He is stepping up his recovery and let’s see how soon he’ll be match-fit and available.

“He’s not really been able to play for us [this season], so when we get him back it’ll be like a new world-class signing, a new world-class midfielder, so of course we want him back as soon as possible.

“The beauty we have with Paul is that he can play in so many roles. He can play in a two, he can play in a three and he can play as a No. 10 and I think we all saw last week, and in Astana, that Jesse [Lingard] is also coming back to his best.

“We’ve got more and more coming back and that’s great, we shall see who is fit when Paul is fit because you can’t plan too far ahead in football.”

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