Thursday 19 April 2018

Stephen Hunt: Paul Pogba can prove to be a Manchester United great but I'm not so sure about Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho’s relationship with Paul Pogba is coming under increasing scrutiny as the Frenchman struggles to justify his huge transfer fee. Photo: Getty Images
Jose Mourinho’s relationship with Paul Pogba is coming under increasing scrutiny as the Frenchman struggles to justify his huge transfer fee. Photo: Getty Images
'If you watch Pogba playing for United, you always want more.' Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Stephen Hunt

Stephen Hunt

Paul Pogba will be at Manchester United for years to come and can still prove himself to be one of the club's great midfielders. I am not so sure Jose Mourinho will be around for as long.

Everything the Manchester United boss has done in his managerial career has been calculated. He very rarely goes off on a tangent in his remarks to the media and says something that makes you think, 'He has lost the plot'.

He obviously had a pop at Pogba last week and he knows that is bound to get attention and headlines. Pogba is an £89m footballer, the biggest signing of last season, and he is not going to go under the radar when comments are made by his manager.

However, Mourinho knows Pogba is man enough to deal with it and big and bold enough to handle the pressure. Managers of his calibre don't always get it right but I suspect this was his way of getting a reaction from Pogba because he is not completely satisfied that he is fulfilling his full potential at Old Trafford.

Mourinho will see the off-field Pogba who, you can see on social media, likes dancing, laughing, joking around and hugging his team-mates. He is not a shy boy, he looks like he has the confidence to wear the hair. But underneath it all, he may be struggling with his confidence on the pitch, just like any other player.

For such a huge signing, Pogba has not lived up to the fee. That fee will not bother him. It doesn't worry most footballers. But I don't think he has matched the standards he set at Juventus. I thought he would show consistently that he can be one the best all-round midfielders in Manchester United history but he has so far fallen way short. The Manchester United faithful are frustrated with him because they want him to move up to the next level and show he can be one of the club's greats.

If you watch Pogba playing for United, you always want more. Every now and again, there are glimpses of brilliance but how do you get that out of him consistently? That is the question Mourinho is trying to answer.

Pogba needs to grab hold of himself and maybe go against the manager and provide the flashes of brilliance that he had at Juventus where I think he had more freedom and a licence to try more elaborate play and tricks.

He does have the ability to be a Manchester United great. Everything is in the locker and hopefully it will all click for him and he will get into a run of form which is closer to the influence he had at Juventus. That will come, I think.

Players play differently under different managers and it probably suits Pogba to play within himself with Mourinho. And I can already see a difference in Alexis Sanchez's body language. He was forever throwing his arms around in frustration at Arsenal but I've only seen him do that once so far at United, against Sevilla. I cannot see Mourinho tolerating that.

As they showed in that game on Wednesday night, Manchester United are a well-organised team but even Mourinho got criticised for the 0-0 draw in Sevilla. It is not a bad result but, for some reason, there is a lot of negativity surrounding their style of play. They will batter Sevilla at home and make the quarter-final, no problem. This is where Manchester United fans are in danger of falling into the trap of Liverpool supporters.

For the last decade or so, United fans have mocked the Scousers because they have been living in the past and forever comparing teams to the champions of the mid-1980s. United fans are doing the same now when they look back at Fergie's brilliant title-winning teams.

Mourinho looked relaxed during the game in Spain which makes you believe that he got what he anticipated from the Sevilla performance. The players know they don't need to push themselves to the level of Barcelona or Real Madrid because they know the manager is happy. They don't have to perform to entertain because he will be content with a goalless away draw, knowing they can turn it on in the second leg.

Incidentally, I am not a fan of the last-16 format. Because there is a fortnight gap between the first and second legs, the games lose momentum. I would much prefer the games are played consecutively in the first fortnight

You lose a real feel for the competition having to go backwards and forwards to the two sets of games and any edge from the first legs will be lost because of the long gap to the second tie.

Sunday Indo Sport

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