Solskjaer defends Pogba's 'professionalism' as he nears return

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has defended Paul Pogba's professionalism and says the Manchester United midfielder will be like a "new world-class signing" when he returns to fitness.

After an uncomfortable summer of speculation following the World Cup winner's admission that he would like to leave, the campaign could not have gone much worse for the 26-year-old.

Injured against Southampton at the end of August, Pogba was able to return in late September only for an ankle issue to sideline him again.

The France international this week finished a period of rehabilitation in Miami, where he was filmed playing basketball with NBA player Jimmy Butler.

That video naturally raised questions and a report in Spain even suggested the wantaway midfielder was fit and refusing to play for United, but Solskjaer defended the former world-record signing.

"Every player is allowed to be injured when he's injured and Paul is working hard to get back," the United boss said after seeing his side lose 2-1 to Astana in their Europa League match on Thursday.

"No one can doubt his professionalism, his willingness or his desire to play football.

"He's one of the best midfielders in the world and it'll be like signing a new player before the transfer window opens."

Pogba is now back in Manchester but will not feature against Aston Villa on Sunday.

But there appears a chance that the 26-year-old could make his long-awaited return next Wednesday against Tottenham, who are now managed by Jose Mourinho, the former United manager who clashed with the Frenchman.

"He's stepping up his recovery and let's see how soon he'll be match-fit and available," Solskjaer said. "Of course, that's going to be a new signing for us.

"He's not really been able to play for us so when we get him back it's like a new world-class signing, a new world-class midfielder, so of course we want him back as soon as possible."

jw/dmc

MANCHESTER UNITED