Sunday 18 March 2018

Jose Mourinho explains why underperforming Paul Pogba was worth his €104m fee to Man United

Jose Mourinho has demanded more from his players. Photo: AP
Jose Mourinho has demanded more from his players. Photo: AP

James Ducker

Jose Mourinho wants his Manchester United players to prove their privileged lifestyles have not eroded their motivation as he backed Paul Pogba to overcome his slump in form and justify his status as the world's most expensive footballer.

Mourinho is facing an early challenge in his reign as United manager after the team suffered a second successive defeat on Thursday, when they were beaten 1-0 by Feyenoord in their opening Europa League tie, five days after losing to Manchester City at Old Trafford.

United's shortcomings in the past two matches have been embodied by Pogba's struggles in midfield and Mourinho has told his squad to show they still have the desire and drive, starting away to Watford tomorrow lunchtime. "I always say that the best motivation you can have is your own motivation," the United manager said.

"I always feel that I am an extra source of motivation . . . but the motivation belongs to the player.

"And if the players at this age need the great life, the money they have to do what they want, I think they shouldn't need an extra source of motivation. That belongs to themselves so I believe in that.

"I believe on Sunday they will try to win the match and give everything and I will be by them just to try to help.

"The club is too big, the supporters are too passionate for the professionals not to feel that every game is very important. So I don't think they should need a defeat or in this case two defeats to try to give everything they have to give. It should belong to them and that is what I expect from them."

Pogba was a peripheral figure against City and Feyenoord. Paul Scholes, the former United midfielder, believes Mourinho still needs to sign a high-calibre "controlling midfielder", such as Real Madrid's Toni Kroos or Luka Modric, who can help "control where Paul goes and can control a game of football" similar to the way Andrea Pirlo did at Juventus.

Scholes suggested Pogba, who joined United for £89m (€104m) from Juventus this summer, is "trying to do too much on the ball" and attempting to impersonate Lionel Messi by seeking to beat "three or four players" when he should be playing it simpler, feeding the ball into Zlatan Ibrahimovic and looking to run off the striker.

Michael Carrick has yet to feature in the league for Mourinho this season and Scholes believes his former team-mate or Morgan Schneiderlin could play that controlling role as an interim measure before the manager re-enters the transfer market.

Mourinho believes Pogba's dip in form was inevitable given that he did not have much of a pre-season. And he has told the Frenchman to ignore the scrutiny around his price-tag and claimed the fee United paid was not as big a deal as a percentage of the club's turnover compared to the sums splashed by other clubs.

Pogba's fee equates to about 17pc of United's £515m (€600m) turnover whereas Jordan Ibe's £15m (€17.5m) transfer to Bournemouth from Liverpool, for example, dwarfed the club's total revenues of £12.9m (€15m) for 2014/15, although their turnover will have risen since.

"The world-record player is always a question that will be open until somebody breaks the record [again], but I think that there are clubs that paid £20 million, £30 million, £40 million, which is a bigger deal than what United paid for Paul," Mourinho said.

"Because you make a relation between what you pay and the club revenue and you realise that other clubs paying £20 million, £30 million, £40 million is a much bigger thing than what Man United did. I just want Paul to forget that and to play his football. He had no pre-season, the Euro final, holidays then came back.

"It's normal that in the first week he had a very good impact but it's normal after that first game he has a little decrease. But I am full of trust with him because I know the player he is.

"I know he is a very good guy with a lot of ambition so the form will come naturally and will come with the team improving. The team improves, he will improve. No problem. It's not a problem with his position. He feels comfortable in it." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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