It was inevitable.
The second international break of the season arrived and Paul Pogba's name dominated the headlines once again.
Back in October break from Premier League action, the Frenchman irked Manchester United supporters by openly flirting with Real Madrid with his contract at Old Trafford approaching its end. United triggered the one-year extension in his current deal but Pogba will have just 12 months remaining when the summer transfer window rolls around.
This time around, Pogba discussed his current situation at the club, explaining he is enduring the most difficult period of his career.
The World Cup winner has found himself in the unfamiliar position of an impact substitute and described linking up with his international teammates as a 'breath of fresh air'.
Paul Pogba faced Bruno Fernandes for France. (Image: Getty)
"I had never known such a difficult period in my career," he told RTL. "The France team is a breath of fresh air. It's not the same as with the club, the group is exceptional, it's magic."
While his comments were not made with any malice towards United or his club teammates, they are unlikely to have improved his already-strained relationship with United supporters.
However, United fans may be forced to accept the reality of Pogba not leaving the club, regardless of his below-par showings of late. Real Madrid have been interested in the past but reports in Spain suggest they are switching their focus to Rennes youngster Eduardo Camavinga. There is also no reason to believe that Pogba's United career can't be resurrected between now and the end of the season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has struggled to find the best system to bring the best out of the 27-year-old and United's most in-form player Bruno Fernandes. Pogba was initially used in a midfield pivot alongside Nemanja Matic, a role that France manager Didier Deschamps suggested the midfielder did not enjoy. However, it is a role that Pogba plays regularly for France to great effect mainly thanks to Chelsea dynamo N'Golo Kante. The former Leicester man enables his countryman to display his best attributes.
In the 26 games they have started together for Les Bleus, they have never tasted defeat.
While playing alongside Kante, Pogba has averaged more successful defensive duels, more interceptions and more recoveries than while playing in United red. Furthermore, he has averaged more successful offensive duels and more accurate passes to the final third when representing his country. Indeed, this data suggests Pogba could simply be putting more effort into his France performances but the presence of Kante benefits the former Juventus man regardless.
Fred - a player who has kept Pogba out of the team lately - is the United most similar to Kante in terms of defensive output. The pair both averaged a similar number of successful defensive actions per 90 minutes though the Chelsea star boasts a better defensive duel success rate. Kante also betters Fred in terms of recoveries (10.13 to 8.3 per 90 minutes) but there is no reason why Fred cannot operate in a similar role to the Frenchman in the United midfield.
If Pogba does end up staying, possibly even signing a new contract, United should look to invest in a more natural defensive midfielder than Fred. As previously highlighted, Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria is going from strength-to-strength in the Bundesliga and is likely to be in-demand this summer. RB Leipzig star Konrad Laimer is another potential option thanks to his tireless work-rate and tenacious defending.
More importantly, Pogba needs to prove to United that he is worth building their system around. No-one will argue he has met expectations since his record-breaking move back to England from Juventus.
It's time for Pogba to stop discussing his future in the French press and let his football do the talking.