Jose Mourinho has praised Paul Pogba for what was a “positive” performance from the bench during Manchester United’s 0-0 draw with Sevilla.
The Frenchman, despite being declared fully fit by Mourinho 24 hours earlier, was left on the bench in Sevile, sending supporters into a confused fury at why their best player had been left out for such a big game.
But fate intervened and he came on to replace the injured Ander Herrera after just 16 minutes, producing a dynamic, hardworking midfield display.
And Mourinho, speaking after the game, made a point of noting that Pogba came in and did a solid job at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium.
“I have to say the midfield started very well and when Herrera came out Paul made a big effort to go into that dynamic and I think he had a positive performance,” he said.
The 24-year-old made his usual noises, skipping away from seemingly doomed situations and caressing the ball forward whenever he could, but you couldn’t help but feel as if something was slightly off.
His body language in particular was not the same. Pogba usually carries himself with an air of ebullience on the pitch, but against Sevilla he almost looked preoccupied, his mind somewhere else.
That he was sidelined with an ‘illness’ against Huddersfield and benched on Wednesday possibly hints towards something going on – perhaps personal, perhaps physical – preventing him from fully focusing, from truly taking the game by the scruff of its neck.
Whatever it is, Mourinho needs to put it to bed sooner rather than later. He said it himself: the team needs Pogba at his best to be at its collective best.