Telegraph journalist Jason Burt has claimed that the situation between Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba is worse than first thought and could develop into a standoff.
The relationship between the two has become a talking point after Mourinho’s decision to take him off during defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United as well as leave him on the bench for a home win over Huddersfield Town.
Pogba missed the FA Cup clash with David Wagner’s men through illness and Mourinho’s comments after the game contained a clear hint of frustration at his £89m man.
And Burt, speaking on Sunday Supplement, noted that a potentially dangerous disjunct between the pair could emerge over the next few weeks.
“It’s quite obvious that there’s an issue and you can tell by the way Mourinho is talking about it,” he said.
“I’m not saying it’s irrecoverable but it’s quite serious. He’s your most expensive player and, alongside Sanchez, your biggest star.
“You’ve got to try to resolve the situation. Mourinho’s natural instinct is to put his foot down. That’s what he’d expect to do and he’d expect Pogba to bow to his will.
“But Pogba has shown in the past, he’s willing to put his own foot down and move on. It could develop into a bit of a stand-off or it could blow over quite quickly if he gets back into the team.
“What will be interesting is seeing how he’s used in the team when he gets back in. I do think he is right about where he plays but I do accept, you can’t just pick where you want to play.”
We should note that just one powerful midfield performance from Pogba would more or less kill off this narrative – that the Frenchman and Mourinho are at loggerheads – once and for all.
But it can’t be ignored that the pair do have the potential to come to blows. Such an idea was first conjured up at Wembley by the sight of Mourinho barking at Pogba on the touchline and the 24-year-old barking back, clearly animated, before being hooked off for Marouane Fellaini not long after, who was then also hooked off seven minutes later. The whole thing looked like a mess.
That said, we shouldn’t immediately equate exuberance – a compulsion to speak out, to assert oneself as an individual like Pogba does – as a bad thing, nor as something that will necessarily cause a massive rift with Mourinho, who has, it should be noted, handed him the captaincy before on account of his bold approach.
They are both big characters and care deeply about winning, perhaps in a slightly different way. But the manager will surely know that giving a role which enables Pogba to flourish, rather than have his flaws exposed, gives the team a chance to breathe, and if he doesn’t do that then problems are bound to occur.