Jose Mourinho lavishes praise on 'best in the world' Paul Pogba
Mourinho hails United for showing 'courage' to re-sign French star
Published 19/08/2016 | 02:30
Jose Mourinho has attempted to temper the weight of expectations on Paul Pogba's shoulders as he prepares for his second match in charge of Manchester United tonight but firmly believes he has brought the world's best midfielder back to Old Trafford.
Pogba, signed for a world-record £89m from Juventus this summer four years after he left the club, is not yet fully match fit but is expected to play some part in the Premier League's first televised Friday night fixture, against Southampton.
The United manager is also using the occasion to call upon supporters to again make Old Trafford one of the game's most feared venues, a status that slipped hugely under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.
Mourinho tried to bring a dose of realism to Pogba's arrival by pointing out that the Frenchman will never score the goals or win the awards that have become routine for Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
But the manager also has no doubt that, over time, the France international will make a major impact on his club and the Premier League.
"When you speak about the best players in the world, you go immediately to the ones that score a lot of goals," said Mourinho. "You don't give a golden ball (Ballon d'Or) to a goalkeeper, you give it to (Fabio) Cannavaro once, because in that season he was the captain of Italy, the world champions, not many top players.
"(Paolo) Maldini never got a golden ball, (Javier) Zanetti never got a golden ball, top goalkeepers over history didn't get a gold ball, so you look immediately to the ones that score a lot of goals.
"Can Paul score the same number of goals as Ronaldo and Messi? Not even 25pc, I believe. I believe in a season he can't score 20 goals.
"So if to be the best player in the world means to score a lot of goals, that's not the point. But he's one of the best midfield players, maybe I could say the best in the world."
Mourinho has spoken with Alex Ferguson, the manager who tried and failed to keep Pogba with the club in 2012, about the player and his situation and believes United's hierarchy deserve credit for having the courage to re-sign him after he left Old Trafford for free.
"We exchanged a few ideas about it," said Mourinho. "I know the club did everything, Sir Alex did everything. The decision was made between the player, his entourage, his agent and the way it worked for them, it was a great decision.
"But I think it was very important for the club not to be afraid to do what they did (re-sign him).
"If you lose a player, it doesn't mean if you get a chance to recover him, you don't recover him. Chelsea did the same mistake with (Nemanja) Matic. And a few years later, I pushed the club to do the deal. We did one mistake, why would we want to make the same mistake? So Paul is back and I think really happy to be back."
Back in training for 11 days following the Euros and an extended holiday, Pogba seems likely to start, and play an hour, or come off the bench against Southampton, although it remains to be seen whether Mourinho can find a starting role for another big summer addition, Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
As he takes charge of United in a competitive Old Trafford fixture for the first time tonight, Mourinho asked supporters to get behind the team.
"I think everything starts there, the relationship between the team and the fans," he said.
"If at Old Trafford, a couple of thousand away supporters can be more noisy than 70,000, then we are in trouble, then it means there is no connection between team and supporters. If there is a connection, that factor being strong at home has to be back.
"But everything starts with that relationship. The way the team plays, the way it behaves, the mode of play. It includes the mental approach.
"If the fans feel that connection, they also want to 'play' and if the fans 'play', there is no chance for the opponent." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Manchester Utd v Southampton, Live, Sky Sports, 8.00pm