Tuesday 20 August 2019

John Giles: Why I am on Jose Mourinho's side for the first time in my life

Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba haven’t always seen eye-to-eye this season. Photo: Getty Images
Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba haven’t always seen eye-to-eye this season. Photo: Getty Images

John Giles

THERE is one inescapable conclusion to be reached about Manchester United’s current circumstances. Either Jose Mourinho or Paul Pogba must go and, for perhaps the first time ever, I’m on the manager’s side.

Mourinho’s very calm and unusually frank comments in the wake of the defeat by West Brom revealed the depth of the problem. Pogba can’t do what he wants on the pitch and his influence on the training ground is counter-productive.

In every other situation like this at Old Trafford since Matt Busby’s time, the manager has had his way.

Pogba is a modern phenomenon, already a multi-millionaire and with a platform on social media which allows him to interact directly with fans that clearly love and admire him.

I’ve no problem with any of that as long as he does his stuff on the pitch, but there is no debate about that. He’s not doing his stuff and, clearly, Mourinho has had enough. The question now is whether the club will back the boss.

United have had to deal with high maintenance players like this before, but football always remained the most important aspect of the debate.

George Best was the first and there have many more all the way up to Wayne Rooney before Alex Ferguson stepped down. In each case, the football argument won.

Busby didn’t really understand what was happening to Best, a shy young lad living alone in digs who had become the fifth Beatle and had to deal with everything which came with it on his own.

Ultimately, though, all he wanted to do was play football and this is where the comparison falls down. I’m not sure that Pogba, who is anything but shy and has a posse of people around him to look after his interests, has that intense inner drive to play.

Given his empire of followers on Twitter and Instagram and his range of hobbies, that is surely no surprise. At this point, he could probably have a big career in entertainment if he felt like it.

Think of the big-name players who caused problems for Ferguson. Cantona had his own mind and a wild streak but he realised that he could flourish if he knuckled down and worked with his manager. He also wanted to play, wanted to win.

Cantona, presumably, also knew what would happen if he didn’t follow the rules and there was clear evidence of that later when David Beckham’s growing public profile and branding as part of the UK’s golden couple began to encroach on United’s training ground.

This was too much for Ferguson, who sold him to Real Madrid in 2003.

I believe that Mourinho is in that place now and will have to act. I believe the comments he made point to the fact that as a football professional he is appalled by the fact that there doesn’t seem to be anything he can do to control Pogba.


I reckon he has tried everything to work with Pogba and if Pep Guardiola is to be believed, ran out of patience in January, at which point the lad was offered to Manchester City by Mino Raiola.

Guardiola was kind to Pogba when he said he could not afford to buy him. If he was honest, he would have said that hell would freeze over before he would bring a player like that into his squad.

It should be noted that Guardiola won the title by exercising total control and yet it was Mourinho’s lack of control when his team lined out to play West Brom on the back of a Manchester derby victory which handed City the Premier League.

If Raiola is actively seeking to move his man on, Ed Woodward’s opinion on all of this is largely irrelevant. He only becomes a problem for Mourinho if he decides that Pogba is too important to his own position and resists any attempts to sell him.

On balance, I would expect tradition to be upheld, the manager’s wishes respected and Pogba to leave, but as I mentioned, the power of social media is a new feature in the game and if Mourinho ended up moving on instead, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.

Mourinho damned himself back in July when he tagged Pogba as “the most complete footballer in the world” and when I heard him say that, I knew straight away that he was trying to sell us a story.

I knew that he didn’t buy Pogba and that he came as part of the job Mourinho was desperate to have. His big mistake was to let his boastful nature take control of his mouth and everything bad which has happened this season flowed from that stupid remark.

Behind all the brash nonsense, Mourinho is a football man and he is offended by the fact that he cannot get a footballer to concentrate on his job. In fact, he suggested that he has this issue with more than one in his training squad.

When he spoke about the titles he has won after losing to West Brom, for once I didn’t roll my eyes.

I think he was making a heartfelt point that he is a pro who knows how to run a football team but that all of his experience, all of his man management skills and all of his knowledge is useless if players cannot or will not follow instruction.

In that scenario, there is only one thing to do. Raiola will be a busy man this summer.

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