Tuesday 23 July 2019

Comment: Paul Pogba deal proves Jose Mourinho is only interested in instant success

Jose Mourinho is hopeful of a deal for Paul Pogba will be completed
Jose Mourinho is hopeful of a deal for Paul Pogba will be completed

Roy Curtis

HIS critics present Jose Mourinho as no more than a transient gun-for-hire, an author of passing glories.

They can offer the huge­ly extravagant imminent recruitment of Paul Pogba – even as Jose coldly skew­ers other careers of coltish promise – as Exhibit A to support their thesis.

On first inspection it is hard­ly the most poisonous dart to aim at a coach: One that damns him for being in a hurry, wher­ever he roams, to crack glory's code.

Or lambasts his success in per­suading Europe's most coveted midfield talent to make a home in Manchester.

And Pogba – though stretching football inflation to unchartered territory – might well be the foundation stone from which a new, remade Manchester United will rise.

The Frenchman is not yet great, not remotely so, but he clearly has the potential to as­pire to greatness.

Of course there is the school of thought – with Paul Scholes as its most voluble spokesman – that says for £100m United might legitimately expect a finished Messi-like masterpiece.

Yet more than authentic doubts about Pogba's place in the firmament triggered the chorus of high moral ground tut-tutting aimed at Mourinho this week.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on the club's pre-season tour in America

Perhaps Jurgen Klopp was indulging in a little mischief, seeking to land the first psy­chological blow of a new season, when he insisted he would never spend so much on a player.

But Mourinho has also felt the sting of friendly fire, Scholes just one among those uncomfort­able with the Pogba deal.

For a pragmatist like Mourin­ho there are only two questions: Is Pogba better than what was available to Louis Van Gaal? And does he improve United's title chances?

Undoubtedly the answers in block capitals are YES and YES.

Given that football is enslaved to the fashionable pursuit of instant gratification, that the guillotine is forever poised, Mourinho is surely then filling the modern job-spec to the letter?

He is, after all, recruited as a fire-fighter, a fixer of ills, a cloudburst ending the drought .

Jose has, after all, harvested some type of precious metal in his first full season at Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid, making the sniping seem green-eyed and absurd.

A great slab of United's sup­port would approve a deal with the devil – and worry about the long-term when they must – if it guaranteed the championship pennant was again flying over Old Trafford next May.

Yet there is something per­nicious about the charge that could be heard as Pogba entered the Carrington revolving door even as it spat out Timothy Fo­su-Mensah.

Mourinho stands accused of an addiction to short-termism, of a malignant refusal to concern himself with the storms that may lurk beyond the immediate horizon.

P5 Norwich 3.jpg
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal speaks with Timothy Fosu Mensah before he goes on as a substitute. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters
Fosu-Mensah with Van Gaal

Last week he turned his back on Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, a pair who prospered even as LVG's United floundered, yet are surplus to Jose's requirements.

And so those who like to see Mourinho as football's dark knight took delight in depositing their accusatory payload.

That lacking the patience or verve to build his own team, he buys somebody else’s instead.

How Arsenal supporters, after years of Arsene Wenger talking always of tomorrow, might crave such logic.

But there is unquestionably a downside, a volatility inevitable in jiving with Mourinho.

If the Portuguese is accom­panied by a near-guarantee of an immediate and exhilarating high, terms and conditions ap­ply. The small print carries a serious warning.

In Mourinho's case – and the pattern is well established – of a thumping third-season hang­over.

That the rumbling volcano of colliding egos and bubbling angst which, inevitably, builds up under his alpha-male de­mands, must eventually and catastrophically erupt.

The result: Rebellion, strife, chaos, decline, murder on the dancefloor.

In short: Chelsea 2015/16.

But does it truly matter?

Yes, there is a certain madness inherent in the Pogba panto­mime.

Only in football's financially delinquent universe could the re-signing for €120m of a play­er given away for nothing four years earlier be presented as an extraordinary coup.

Manchester United have yet to agree a deal with Juventus for France midfielder Paul Pogba
Pogba in action for France at Euro 2016

Yet such is the money swirling around the Premier League, Pogba's fee will be justified if he delivers a league title.

Only if he fails to transform United, will the names of other expensive failures be spat in his direction.

And then, Mourinho will suf­fer too.

In truth, he will hardly care.

Though he offered a (largely unconvincing) dossier of names just a month ago when chal­lenged about his reluctance to invest in youth, this week's actions reveal his mind-set.

If a player is not the finished product, Jose doesn't see it as his job to add the polish. He simply doesn't want to know.

Rather he is the luxury-car salesman who wants only prov­en, gleaming ready-to-go models on his forecourt.

His philosophy brings its own danger.

In four years' time, might Fo­su-Mensah be the next Pogba, the Dutchman lured back to Old Trafford at huge expense when the alternate was to nurture his development?

But then it was Ferguson, the father of the modern United and the facilitator of Scholes, Giggs, Beckham, Butt and the Nevilles, who ushered the 19-year-old Pogba to the door.

Perhaps the standing of the class of '92 will always result in Old Trafford sensitivities about youth.

Mourinho could counter argue that Pogba is hardly an antique. But his tongue would be firmly in cheek.

Because he cannot present a leviathan €120m investment as a gamble on some yet-to-bloom unknown.

Though the rangy, athletic Pogba is just 23, he is also, after compiling an impressive body of work at Juventus, a proven A-list, or at very least a B+-list talent.

If he thrives in red, if he helps deliver a title, then Mourinho will feel the glow of affection that to him is a psychic fuel.

And if three or four years down the line, Old Trafford is again in unhealthy ferment, that will hardly bother Jose.

The author of passing glories will likely be somewhere else, ladling out another serving of instant gratification.

Online Editors

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