Thursday 17 August 2017

Paul Pogba expected to miss Manchester United's final two league games as he grieves father's death

Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba

James Ducker

Paul Pogba could sit out Manchester United’s final two Premier League games before returning to the team for next week’s Europa League final against Ajax in Stockholm.

The United midfielder is due to attend the funeral in France this week of his father, Fassou Antoine, who died last Friday following a long-term illness, and manager Jose Mourinho will give the player time to grieve with his family.

Pogba is expected to miss United’s penultimate league match away to Southampton on Wednesday evening and will be given the choice to miss Sunday’s final game against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.

“I don’t think so,” Mourinho said when asked if Pogba would be available to face Southampton. “I think that his dad’s funeral has to be between Tuesday and Wednesday in France. I don’t think that Paul has the conditions to play. We have left him completely free to be back when he thinks he’s ready.”

With the top four out of reach and the success of United’s season hinging on the outcome of the Europa League final, victory in which would secure Champions League qualification for next term, Mourinho has vowed to continue rotating players to ensure his squad are in the best possible condition for the Ajax game after a gruelling season.

Southampton will be United’s 62nd game this season and Mourinho said he had never encountered a campaign like it during his 17-year managerial career. Marouane Fellaini, who completed a three-match ban in the 2-1 defeat to Spurs on Sunday, will start against Southampton and Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial and Juan Mata are all in line to play 90 minutes.

Sergio Romero, whom Mourinho has said will start against Ajax, will play one of the games against Southampton and Palace. But Mourinho said Daley Blind would not feature against Southampton while he plans to use Antonio Valencia, Ander Herrera and Henrikh Mkhitaryan sparingly. Mourinho said Timothy Fosu-Mensah, currently sidelined with a shoulder injury, had an outside chance of making the 18-man squad against Ajax.

Asked if these were the hardest circumstances he has worked under, Mourinho said: “It is - the accumulation of the games, I never had that. You know that in all my career I was never out of European competitions in the group phases and in the last 16 I was out only once. So I reached the semi-finals 10 times. I go always until the end of the competitions. In the League Cup I normally go far. In the domestic competitions cups, I won in Spain, in Italy, in Portugal so I normally have a lot of matches. But like this I never have.

“This is crazy. And I repeat - thank you Michael Oliver [who sent off Herrera in United’s FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Chelsea] because we were out in the FA Cup. Because if we go to the FA Cup semi-finals, it would be a total disaster. I don’t know when we would be playing that game [what would have been a postponed league victory against Burnley].

“I never, ever have had a situation like this and on top of that [there has been] the accumulation of big injuries, not small, not the injuries that you say, ‘Ok, hamstring, two weeks’. No, it’s surgery, boom, boom. It’s surgery – one knee, another knee, another foot, just big surgeries. So fewer and fewer and fewer players. It’s very difficult, really very difficult. But we are there and we go to the final.”

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