Manchester United are bracing themselves for a last-minute bid from Real Madrid for their star midfielder Paul Pogba.
Real boss Zinedine Zidane is understood to have demanded his club sign Pogba before the La Liga transfer window shuts on September 2.
Reports from Spain have suggested Zidane could walk out on Real, just five months after returning to the Bernabeu, if they fail to sign Pogba, 26, this summer.
But United have insisted they will resist any Real bid for Pogba, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer unable to sign a replacement for him now deadline day has passed in England.
United will reject any attempt to lure Pogba away – even if their £180m valuation of their star midfielder, who returned to Old Trafford from Juventus three years ago, is met.
Pogba raised fresh doubts over his situation in the wake of Sunday’s 4-0 win over Chelsea by claiming there was still “a question mark” over his United future, fuelling the belief he could yet leave within weeks.
The France World Cup winner provided compelling proof of his enduring value to United with two assists in their rout of Chelsea, underlining his status as their most important midfielder.
Although Pogba still wants to join Real, there is an acceptance on the part of the player and his advisers that any move will now have to wait until next summer at the earliest.
United know it may be difficult to hold on to Pogba next year if their club record signing still wants to embark on a new challenge with Real in La Liga.
But there is hope at United that a improved season from the team and a return to the Champions League may ultimately persuade Pogba his long-term future lies with the Reds.
Zidane has spent the summer instructing Real chief Florentino Perez to secure the signing of his French compatriot Pogba, whose boyhood idol was the Bernabeu boss.
Despite signing Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Ferland Mendy and Eder Militao, Zidane believes Real need Pogba if they are to stand any chance of competing with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.