Thursday 20 September 2018

Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba woes pile pressure on Mourinho

Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba
Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to sign a two-year deal with MSL side LA Galaxy. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

James Ducker

Jose Mourinho is facing a serious battle to revitalise star signings Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba amid growing concerns about their state of mind at Manchester United as Zlatan Ibrahimovic quit the club to join Los Angeles Galaxy.

Sanchez has admitted his struggles at Old Trafford in the wake of his January move from Arsenal have left him "emotionally and psychologically exhausted".

And Pogba has appeared relieved to join up with the French squad this week and escape his current club woes under Mourinho, with France coach Didier Deschamps admitting the midfielder's problems at United were "complicated" following heart-to-heart talks between the pair.

Concerns over Sanchez and Pogba came as Mourinho launched yet another defence of his reign at United and brand of football and LA Galaxy prepared to announce today that Ibrahimovic has signed a two-year deal to join the Major League Soccer outfit after his short spell at Old Trafford was brought to an abrupt end.

United agreed to release Ibrahimovic from his contract three months before it was due to expire on June 30 following the 36-year-old's struggles to regain his fitness and form in the wake of a cruciate knee ligament injury suffered last year.

Mourinho had forecast Ibrahimovic's departure weeks ago and will be more concerned about his remaining highest profile players.

Sanchez took to Instagram yesterday to post a photo of himself smiling while training with the Chilean national team accompanied by a message that read: "I know you're tired. I know you are psychologically and emotionally exhausted. But you have to smile and continue."

Sanchez, who has scored just once in 10 games since his swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, is said to have cut a sullen and isolated figure at times at United and there have even been reports of him eating alone in the club canteen, with the player admitting the move was not panning out as planned.

"As I am self-demanding, I expected something better," he said. "The change of club was very abrupt. It was the first time I've changed clubs in January but many things have happened in my life that are difficult."

Sanchez was an unused substitute alongside Pogba for United's 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final win over Brighton last Saturday.

Pogba has started just four of 11 matches for United owing to poor form, illness and injury, although the Frenchman's mood is said to have brightened considerably on international duty this week.

Price

Nonetheless, Pogba is expected to pay the price for his recent difficulties by starting on the bench for France against Colombia in Paris tonight.

"His situation in Manchester is complicated," Deschamps said. "It is good for him to be here with us. I had a long discussion with him. I know how to deal with him. I am here to encourage my players, show them my confidence but also be truthful with them. I am here to put them in the best condition for the national team."

Meanwhile, Mourinho has dismissed suggestions his side do not play enough attacking football and has claimed the club are "in transition" under him, even though his £300m splurge in under two seasons has taken the club's spending post 2013 to more than £600m.

Mourinho has been severely criticised in the wake of United's humiliating Champions League round-of-16 exit to Sevilla but the Portuguese scoffed at the reaction to the defeat.

"What do you mean by that? Like we did against Chelsea and against Liverpool you mean?" Mourinho responded to CNN when asked if United's football was expansive enough.

"I don't (understand the criticism), I understand the frustration, I understand the sadness of being knocked out in the Champions League, but I don't understand anything more than that.

"In the history of football all around the world, you have the biggest clubs with the moments of transition.

"I think at this moment in the Premier League we have one team (Manchester City), one club clearly better prepared than us in the past few years to be first and we have 18 clubs behind us. One in front of us, 18 behind us.

"Of course, in the future we want to have 19 clubs behind us but this is the reality.

"And the reality is for people with brain, with sense, with common sense, with knowledge of what sports is, is that we are in a moment of transition."

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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