Manchester United should ditch Paul Pogba: Neil Humphreys
Endless cycles of uncertainty involving Pogba is undermining Red Devils' manager Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has one last chance to prop up the myth, a final shot at proving his apparent lineage to Sir Alex Ferguson.
He dumps Paul Pogba, along with the Frenchman's insufferable agent, or he walks away from Old Trafford.
Solskjaer has long passed the point of no return with Pogba. There is no middle ground left, no hope of a mutually beneficial outcome. One wins. One loses.
And to the victor goes whatever is left of Manchester United.
Like Brexit and Trumpism, Solskjaer inadvertently assumed power on a mandate of inward-looking nostalgia and sentimentality. He was going to make the Red Devils great again, by taking them backwards rather than forwards.
A toe-poke in 1999, an amiable personality, lots of friends in TV studios and a Tourette's-like compulsion to frequently spit out Ferguson's name earned Solskjaer a job way beyond his experience and qualifications.
And he might have got away with it, if it hadn't been for that pesky Pogba.
The Frenchman, via his mobile megaphone agent Mino Raiola, has highlighted more than a player-manager power struggle in his latest escape attempt. He has potentially emphasised Solskjaer's unsuitability for United.
As long as Pogba's agent continues his shenanigans, informing the world that his client's United career is over, Solskjaer risks being exposed as a fake.
The Norwegian got the full-time gig on the promise of being the new Ferguson, rather than a transparent facsimile of the old one. The comparison hurts.
In 2012, Ferguson had a restless midfielder on the books and an agent of chaos engineering a swift exit. The midfielder was Pogba and the agent was Raiola.
Ferguson didn't hesitate. Better players than Pogba had been sacrificed for the greater good. David Beckham, Jaap Stam and Roy Keane were whales compared to sprat like Pogba.
The Frenchman was flogged to Juventus and a final title was squeezed from a fading United squad a year later. Ferguson then retired, omnipotent and unrepentant.
As Ferguson later wrote, he and Raiola were "oil and water". The last of the ruling dinosaurs perhaps, the veteran manager dismissed the incoming meteorites of player power and agent control.
His abrasive, dictatorial style of man-management has undoubtedly passed, but the importance of dressing room harmony remains. Titles are rarely won without it.
On the other side of Lancashire, Juergen Klopp decides whether players stay or go and the final decision is rarely acrimonious. From the Luis Suarez debacle to Adam Lallana's genial farewell, Liverpool have morphed into a model of stability, continuity and renewal.
United, on the other hand, can't even flog a World Cup winner.
Instead, Raiola continues to humiliate Solskjaer, toying with the Norwegian like a bored kitten pawing at a ball of wool.
As Solskjaer prepared for his first pre-season tour last year, Raiola went public with his departure plans for his client. Solskjaer spent much of the tour discussing Pogba.
Raiola also said United would "ruin Maradona, Pele and Maldini". Just consider Ferguson's response if the agent that he'd once labelled a "s***-bag" suddenly mocked his club, character and managerial ability.
Then there was Pogba's tedious flirting with Real Madrid at carefully selected moments. Each deliberate, targeted attack undermines Solskjaer, as Pogba and Raiola turn into pre-pubescent bullies, picking on the scrawny kid when he's at his most vulnerable.
Raiola preys on United's weakness. Ferguson's retirement removed the only gatekeeper capable of keeping the voracious Italian at bay. He made fortunes in deals involving clients Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Romelu Lukaku before pocketing a reported £41.4 million (S$73.9m) from Pogba's move to United.
And now, he fancies another lucrative payday so he slings his golden goose back into the shop window after one decent performance against West Ham United.
Like a disaster capitalist, Raiola gets richer as United's management gets poorer, which is arguably the biggest indictment of the Solskjaer era.
The longer this farce goes on, the less the Norwegian looks like an elite manager, let alone the natural successor to Ferguson.
At the very least, Raiola's latest antics have simplified matters. Solskjaer must lose Pogba or he will lose his job.