Jose Mourinho explains why he dropped Paul Pogba as Manchester United beat Huddersfield
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho insisted his decision to drop Paul Pogba to the bench against Huddersfield was not a punishment for his role in last Wednesday’s chastening defeat against Tottenham.
Mourinho and club record signing Pogba were involved in a heated exchange on the Wembley touchline during the Spurs game, with the United boss substituting his France international midfielder shortly after as his side slumped to a 2-0 defeat.
When the United boss then left Pogba out of his side for the visit of Huddersfield to Old Trafford, there was a suspicion that the United boss was asserting his authority over his £89m superstar.
Yet he denied that was his motive was to give Pogba a public dressing down after his side’s 2-0 win was secured with goals from Romelu Lukaku and a first United goal for Alexis Sanchez.
“I changed a few players, but it wasn’t to punish anyone,” declared Mourinho. “If it was about punishing I would be punished too because we are a team.
“Scott McTominay needs to play and I gave him his chance in this game, but no punishment for anyone who does not play. You need to freshen the team up sometimes and it worked for us today as this was a controlled performance.
“I made a few changes thinking about the characteristics of this game and I think this kid (McTominay) has a great desire to recover the ball when the team is not in possession.
“He's a kid that chases the ball, that tries to recover high up the pitch and when he has the ball it is always simple and against opponents like Huddersfield, so close and with so many bodies behind the ball, the simplicity sometimes is genius.
“You don't have space, you have to open spaces by playing simple, so was a decision to play the kid but Paul came on very, very well with a great attitude with the spaces that we had at that time because we were winning 1-0 and Paul could show his talents and his qualities.
“I always try to do what is best for the team in any moment and I prefer to look at it in the beautiful way of a little kid that arrived here with his mum at nine-years-old for the first training session, 10 or 11 years later the kid is playing in a Manchester United shirt in an important match in the Premier League at home at Old Trafford, so I prefer to look at that perspective.
“Paul is a fantastic player, no doubt for me one of the most talented midfield players in the world but to sit on the bench one day is not the end of the world.”
Huddersfield barely crossed the half-way line with any attacking intent from first to last, as Mourinho’s team trimmed Manchester City’s lead at the top of the Premier League to 13 points.
“We had to be patient but had to keep the intensity high and the pressure. We had to break down the Berlin wall organised so well by David Wagner,” added Mourinho.
“It was nice for Alexis Sanchez to win a match, the first at home. Nice for him to play well and show the desire and happiness in playing football. That is most important. It was not the goal of his dreams, but it is a goal.
“It is important for the bad reasons (Munich air disaster) but the memories stay. The club looks at the date and event as a key moment in the history of the club. It is nice to do that playing at home and winning.”