Jose Mourinho has hailed Paul Pogba for a “mature” performance in midfield for France during their 1-0 win over Belgium to book a place in the World Cup final.
The 25-year-old midfielder, whose solid performances have gone under the radar at this tournament, was once again indomitable in the centre.
He once again linked up cleverly with Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, stretching the pitch with pinpoint long passes, and defended stoically in the second half.
Speaking on RT after the game, Mourinho was quick to heap praise on the way his midfielder performed in the biggest occasion of his career to date.
“I think a very good performance by Pogba,” he said. “Pogba was mature, he played with maturity when he had to, to hold position and keep control of the play he did.”
“France was good at the basic things of the game. They defended well, the were compact. They scored a goal that probably Fellaini is the last man to touch it. But the they score and they try to control the game, which basically they did.”
You can only hope the 55-year-old has taken note of how Didier Deschamps uses Pogba. The former France international has two sides to his game: the first revolving around stretching and quickening the game, the second slowing it right down.
The role of Mbappe and Griezmann, along with Olivier Giroud’s ability to hold up play, is to make the pitch big by one running into the channels while the other looks for the ball. This immediately creates a gap between midfield and attack for Pogba to then exploit. With the industrious pair of N’Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi alongside him, the Frenchman had acres of space ahead of him to make use of. It was a stark contrast to the inertia of Mourinho’s football – and specially the lack of runners in behind – at Old Trafford.
The second bit – the slowing down of games when your team is ahead – is not a problem for Mourinho. But he should be thinking very carefully about how Deschamps has got the best out of Pogba at this tournament.