Jose Mourinho has insisted he didn’t drop Paul Pogba for Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town as a form of punishment for his disappointing display against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night.
The Frenchman was taken off during the second half at Wembley after struggling to impose himself in a two-man pivot alongside Nemanja Matic.
Pogba was relegated to the bench on Saturday, with Scott McTominay starting in his place before being introduced midway through the second half.
But Mourinho, speaking after the game, made it clear that he wasn’t intending to punish Pogba by leaving him out.
Mourinho in his press conference: "I made some changes but my intention was not to punish anyone. Paul came on with a great attitude."
— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonESPN) February 3, 2018
Jose: "Paul is a fantastic player. One of most talented in the world. To sit on the bench one day is not the worst thing in the world."
— Simon Stone (@sistoney67) February 3, 2018
Even if it was just one game, Pogba’s absence from the starting XI was bound to raise some eyebrows. This was the first time the Frenchman was sidelined for reasons other than injury or a desire to keep him fresh. He hasn’t had to watch on from the bench too many times in his Man United career.
And regardless of what Mourinho claims, there was a reason behind it. To leave both Pogba and Martial – two of United’s most proficient attacking threats this season – on the bench serves as a message to every player in the squad: that nobody, regardless of past achievements, gets a place in the starting XI without working for it.