Mourinho warns Pogba no player is bigger than United
Jose Mourinho has warned Paul Pogba that no player is bigger than Manchester United and that anyone who thinks they are will be brought firmly into line.
Mourinho's blunt ultimatum comes as he tries to reassert his faltering authority over parts of a dressing room that have become increasingly weary of the manager's ways.
The Portuguese said his training-ground spat with Pogba in front of the television cameras this week was nothing compared to some of the bust-ups that occur behind closed doors and, insisting their relationship was professional, he added the midfielder would start against West Ham today.
But Mourinho also left Pogba in no doubt that the club comes first and that he will not tolerate any player getting ideas above their station, following his decision to strip the Frenchman of captaincy duties after he told the manager he wanted to leave Old Trafford amid a desire to join Barcelona.
"Manchester United is bigger than anyone and I have to defend that," Mourinho said. "He [Pogba] is a player like the others. No player is bigger than the club and if I'm happy with his work he plays, if I'm not happy he doesn't play."
Nonetheless, Mourinho is facing a growing challenge from within the dressing room, amid anger over his methods and persistent public criticism. One dressing-room source said that the situation threatened to become toxic in the manner of Mourinho's third season at Real Madrid, when he fell out spectacularly with Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos and ultimately faced a revolt in the dressing room.
Mourinho’s feud with Pogba has served only to exacerbate existing tensions and there is a throng of players who are close with the Frenchman and who, like the club’s record £89 million signing, have all endured run-ins, many of them public, with the manager.
Anthony Martial’s relationship with Mourinho hit an all-time low during the summer, when Pogba’s fellow France international was fined for reputedly leaving the club’s pre-season American tour without permission to attend
the birth of his baby son, something the player is understood to dispute.
Mourinho’s wish to sell Martial – who has been the subject of much public criticism from the manager – was vetoed by the club, a move that has empowered the player.
Another French speaker, Eric Bailly, used to be Mourinho’s first-choice centre-half but their relationship has taken a serious downturn since the Ivory Coast defender pulled out, through illness, of the fateful defeat to West Brom last April that handed Manchester City the title.
Andreas Pereira is also close with Pogba and was filmed laughing at team-mate Luke Shaw in the Instagram video from the Derby defeat that so angered Mourinho.
Shaw, who still has a fragile relationship with Mourinho despite forcing his way back into the team, Marcus Rashford, who has been frustrated by a lack of opportunities at centre-forward, and new signing Fred are on the periphery of Pogba’s group.
There are staff who are concerned about the impact of Pogba’s influence, although none doubts his application in training and even Mourinho admitted yesterday that “no one trained better” this week as he prepares to restore the player to his team against West Ham United today.
Some players, including Nemanja Matic, Marouane Fellaini (right) and Ashley Young tend to keep their distance and Romelu Lukaku, while still friendly with the Frenchman, has been keen to ensure he is not seen to be taking sides against Mourinho.
There is a marked ambivalence towards Mourinho in other areas of the dressing room, though, and the manager’s remark that he knew United were “in trouble” the moment Phil Jones stepped up to take a penalty against Derby was dimly received by many and cited as another needless example of public criticism.
Mourinho refused to divulge details of his confrontation with Pogba in training, but said a lot worse happened when the cameras were not there.
“When you say disruptive or you got on camera me speaking with Paul, I am happy that you don’t come here more times because you would get much more than that,” he said. “I can promise you, much more than that. Much louder, much more aggressive, words with a completely different dimension, you would get a lot.”
Meanwhile, ahead of today’s clash with United, Manuel Pellegrini is confident Declan Rice will agree a new contract at West Ham.
Highly-rated teenager Rice has turned down West Ham’s initial offer, reported to be worth around £15,000 a week, and his current deal runs out at the end of next season.
Rice has impressed in a deep-lying midfield role for the Hammers this term and will not be short of offers from elsewhere.
But his manager is not concerned that the 19-year-old’s head will be turned.
“Declan I think must try to continue to have good performances, not thinking about more or less money at the moment,” said Pellegrini.
“Nobody at the club is stupid. He’s not a young player anymore and I don’t think he will have any problems with his contract in the future.” (© Daily Telegraph, London)