The Frenchman has been taken off in the second half of defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United in recent weeks, prompting several reports claiming that the relationship between the pair had turned sour.
Plenty of debate has surrounded Mourinho’s use of Pogba as part of a midfield pivot, rather than using him on the left hand side of a midfield three – a position that has seen him produce his best performances of the season.
And Mourinho, when asked about his record signing, was quick to dismiss the reports circulating during the week as totally baseless, adding that Pogba would feature against Huddersfield tomorrow.
“The position is quite ridiculous to speak about it because I think we have I don’t want to be – what’s the opposition of nice – I don’t want to be nasty with other countries punditry industry but we have here a number here the biggest pundit industry because there are hundreds of them with great background and knowledge in football and I would like somebody to tell me which position you think Pogba played in against Newcastle,” he said.
“Any one of you want to tell me? Okay midfield, but we played with one number six and numbers eights, or two six and one 10, we play with one six and two eights, we play with Matic as a six, Lingard on the right side of Matic and Pogba on the left side, you know which is the Pogba preferred system? 433? “Do you know Pogba’s favourite position in 433?
“Eight on the left, so it’s easy and honest and objective to say Paul didn’t play well against Newcastle but some of the guys are paid millions, don’t let people read things that are not true, you are paid to read the game and explain the game, don’t say bull****.”
“He had a big injury in the season, big injury, he had a big injury, he almost went to surgery like Dembele in Barcelona with a similar injury, the decision was not to do it and go to a conservative treatment, everyone really happy, he was playing phenomenal after that and before that, he had a red card against Arsenal probably in his best match and the team’s best moment, he was out for a long long time and in this moment he is not playing well, period, and the team needs him at a good level, when he is not a good level the team is not as good.
“It happens with every team when the most crucial players are not performing. You don’t need to come with we want to sell him, you don’t need that, some people go in that direction, some of them I know for many many years and I know their surname is Liar, and that’s not nice. He plays tomorrow.”
We should probably take a step back and note that, prior to performances against Spurs and Newcastle, hardly anything had been made of Mourinho’s relationship with Pogba.
Just two bad performances from the Frenchman and two defeats is all that’s required for a media storm surrounding his name – sufficient fuel for a narrative which leads us to believe there is a kind of crisis in the dressing room.
And this is just not true. There is no meltdown, no impending explosion of personalities. But that doesn’t detract from the notion that Mourinho, regardless of what he says, has played Pogba far too deep and United have suffered as a result, while on the flip-side reaped the rewards when giving him an advanced role.
Continuing to use Pogba in a position that doesn’t benefit him and, as Mourinho notes, the team by extension would be nothing short of managerial self-immolation, and could have the power to derail United’s season as a whole.