Monday 20 May 2019

Jose Mourinho named Paul Pogba in Manchester United’s starting line-up only to be told he was ill

Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho
Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho

Jack de Menezes

Jose Mourinho named Paul Pogba in the starting line-up for Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Huddersfield Town on Saturday, only for the midfielder to withdraw on the morning of the game due to a mystery illness.

The United manager planned to start Pogba for the 2-0 victory despite rumours of unrest between the pair in the wake of the 1-0 defeat by Newcastle United last weekend, with Pogba himself admitting that he “needs to get better”.

His absence, along with the omission of Phil Jones, raised eyebrows about Mourinho’s selection and fuelled talk of a dressing room bust-up between the trio, although Mourinho played down the rift ahead of the trip to the John Smith’s Stadium.

But Pogba’s late withdrawal from the game has not done anything to help Mourinho’s mood, with the Portuguese giving little time to the Frenchman’s absence when asked about his position.

“I don’t know and I honestly don’t care,” Mourinho snapped before the victory when asked for a reason about Pogba’s absence. “I will think about him after the match.”

He later added: “Yesterday he was working normally with us. We prepared for the game and told the players the team. He was in it.

“I was told by the doctor this morning he was not coming.”

Despite the dispute between the pair, Mourinho was in good spirits after the victory and even refused to criticise the Video Assistant Referee decision to rule out Juan Mata’s goal. The incident has sparked a fresh debate over the use of the review system, given that BT Sport’s coverage displayed a replay that featured a wonky offside line that offered little assistance on judging whether the Spanish midfielder was onside or not - though the officials were provided with a clearer display.

“I'm familiar with what VAR is bringing that's good and bad," said Mourinho. "I think it's an experimental period. They have to get rid of the bad and make it perfect."

Mata was slightly more aggrieved with the decision, and while he gave VAR his backing, he did admit that he felt left in the dark about the decision at the time.

"I did what I had to do which was to score and celebrated," Mata said. "Then after I saw the referee speaking to someone and you look silly when the goal is denied.

"I'm up for VAR and I think it is good for football especially to make important decisions and make it a little bit fairer, but it seems like today it was not a very clear decision against us and me.

"The good thing was [the goal] was not needed because we won anyway but I think we all wished it was quicker. I celebrated and it didn't count."

Despite the decision going in his side’s favour, Huddersfield manager David Wagner condemned the use of VAR and believes that the reviews “kills the emotion of the game”, with the German calling for the process to be scrapped by the Football Association.

"Yes, the decision went in our favour but this VAR for me kills the emotion of the game," Wagner said.

"This is why I don't like it - but I am not the person who makes the decision."

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