JOSE Mourinho’s strong rebuttal cannot mask “quite obvious” issues with Paul Pogba and could lead to a “stand-off” between the pair, according to the Sunday Supplement panel.
Recent reports suggested Pogba is unhappy with the position he is being asked to play at Manchester United – who face Chelsea on Sunday, and has coincided with a run of poor form.
Mourinho slammed claims of tension between the pair as “lies” before Saturday’s 2-0 FA Cup win at Huddersfield, but the Telegraph’s Jason Burt thinks he is hiding the truth.
“At the very least, there are strains,” Burt told the Sunday Supplement. “It’s quite obvious that there’s an issue and you can tell by the way Mourinho is talking about it.
“I’m not saying it’s irrecoverable but it’s quite serious. He’s your most expensive player and, alongside Sanchez, your biggest star.
“You’ve got to try to resolve the situation. Mourinho’s natural instinct is to put his foot down. That’s what he’d expect to do and he’d expect Pogba to bow to his will.
“But Pogba has shown in the past, he’s willing to put his own foot down and move on. It could develop into a bit of a stand-off or it could blow over quite quickly if he gets back into the team.
“What will be interesting is seeing how he’s used in the team when he gets back in. I do think he is right about where he plays but I do accept, you can’t just pick where you want to play.”
Mourinho spelt out during his pre-match outburst Pogba’s best position in United’s line-up is on the left of a midfield three, but at times he has had to adapt to the team’s tactics, with mixed effect.
Sunday Times writer Jonathan Northcroft agreed the likes of Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane would be happy to make personal sacrifices for the team – but that Pogba is not yet at their level.
“They are great players, but I don’t think Pogba’s a great player,” he said. “He’s not as good as them. They were complete players that could dominate games consistently and do anything.
“United have got a problem in that they marketed Pogba as this great player – he might become one because he’s 23 and he can develop – and he’s amazing at some things on the pitch, but he’s pretty flawed at others.
“He’s just not as good as some of those guys. He can’t be a great box-to-box midfielder because he’s not as good as those guys.
“Yes, Pogba needs help from Jose and it’s not his fault they’ve paid £89m (AU$157m) for him. However, it’s also not unreasonable to expect him to try and improve on some of these things.
“I’m not sure there’s been much sign of him trying to improve in some of the duties Mourinho has told him to do, like tracking back and so on.”