Sunday 20 October 2019

Jose Mourinho hits back at Paul Pogba's critics as he identifies the Frenchman's best position

Paul Pogba (right) came on in the 65th minute having been dropped to the bench (Martin Rickett/PA).
Paul Pogba (right) came on in the 65th minute having been dropped to the bench (Martin Rickett/PA).
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has insisted he does not need to find a specific position for Paul Pogba in his side, as he praised the French midfielder for his positive reaction after being dropped against Huddersfield last weekend.

United’s £89m midfielder became an expensive bench-warmer after his lacklustre display in the 2-0 defeat against Tottenham last week was followed by his demotion from the starting team.

That has sparked a debate over where and how Mourinho can get the best out of Pogba, with Eamon Dunphy among those suggesting the United boss would be wise to build a team without his most expensive signing in a prominent role.

Yet Mourinho has given a detailed vision of Pogba’s role at United, as he spoke to the media ahead of the game against Newcastle on Sunday.

"I was laughing over the past week because I heard and watched, read a few things, and I’m not English but I think I understand English enough when you want to say box-to-box, but with some comments from some important people in football I got a little confused," stated Mourinho.

"For me box-to-box means box-to-box. You have to be good in this box and have to be good in that box. It means you have to defend well in this box, the physical condition and desire and stamina to go until the other box. In the other box you have to be good at scoring, creating, heading and so on.

"When your team loses the ball you have to go to the other box. Now I’m confused when some people say box-to-box has to play free of defensive duties. That’s not a box-to-box. That’s a box in the box and stay in that box. Don’t move from that box!

"I think this country produced a lot of box-to-box players. I had the pleasure to coach some of them, but nowadays with some pundits, some agents, some family members, the concept of box-to-box is changing a little bit.

"It looks like we are going to a different concept. Box-to-box are not my words. I heard it for the first time in 2004 when I arrived. For me, with my Portuguese and trying to translate to the English I just think midfield players.

"For me Paul is a midfield player. He’s not a left back, he’s not a striker. When people ask his best position: he’s a midfield player. It depends on the tactical system but he will always be a midfielder.

"Then with so many opinions, and we are in a world of opinions, people can get confused. There is no confusion between me and Paul. It’s difficult to play a midfielder with more potential than Paul."

Mourinho also praised Pogba’s attitude since his omission from the United first team, which may suggest he will be recalled for Sunday’s game against Newcastle at St James’ Park.

"Paul had a very professional behaviour. This week was not different to what Paul is every week," added Mourinho.

"He works well, he’s a good professional. He likes to train. I’ve never had a single problem with him. He likes to train."

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