Posted on Feb 22
Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to hand a first start to Paul Pogba as the Manchester United manager prepares to ring the changes for their Europa League return leg with Ajax on Thursday.
The Premier League champions hold a two-goal lead from the first meeting with the Dutch club, and with Sunday's tricky trip to Norwich on the horizon Ferguson will rest several senior players while remaining confident of progression to the last 16.
Among those set to come in is Pogba, whose future at Old Trafford remains in doubt after the breakdown of negotiations over a contract extension for the teenage Frenchman.
The highly-rated midfielder, signed from Le Havre in 2009, has made just four substitute appearances this season since his elevation from the youth ranks at Old Trafford.
Three of those arrived in the League Cup, and one, in the 2-0 victory against Stoke City in January, in the Premier League.
Despite his so far infrequent use of the the 18-year-old, Ferguson remains keen for Pogba, part of Manchester United's FA Youth Cup winning side last season, to stay at the club long-term.
The player is of the same mind, but will first seek assurances he will be given a regular run in the side before committing himself.
Pogba is likely to be afforded a chance to impress in the home leg against Ajax, with the experienced trio of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick all set to be rested.
It means Pogba is likely to form a central midfield partnership with Tom Cleverley, the England Under-21 international who returned from a four-month injury lay-off to figure in the first leg victory in Amsterdam, which was secured with goals from Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez.
The winners will face either Athletic Bilbao or Lokomotiv Moscow for a place in the last eight as Ferguson's side acclimatise to competing in Europe's second tier competition for the first time since 1995.
The manager refuses to look too far ahead, however, and the Scot insisted: "We're not taking anything for granted of course, but being at home in the second leg, the opportunity to go through is a big one. We were very ordinary at times in the first leg, but we have to be delighted with the scoreline."
Luis Suarez, the Liverpool forward, is unlikely to be at Old Trafford to cheer on his former Ajax team-mates, despite suggestions he planned to attend the game.
Suarez caused controversy after earning an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra earlier this season, before refusing to shake the Frenchman's hand prior to a game at Old Trafford this month.
The Uruguay international, who later issued an apology for his actions, has been advised to stay away.