Jose Mourinho takes aim at ex-Man Utd players in defence of Paul Pogba

Ian Whittell
The Telegraph
Jose Mourinho has criticised ex-players of Man Utd for their opinions on Paul Pogba - Action Images via Reuters
Jose Mourinho has criticised ex-players of Man Utd for their opinions on Paul Pogba - Action Images via Reuters

Jose Mourinho has responded to critics - including former Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney - in his defence of French international midfielder Paul Pogba.

The United manager also insists his relationship with Pogba remains strong, despite his recent substitution in the defeat at Tottenham and his omission from the starting line-up in last weekend’s victory over Huddersfield.

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Mourinho, in fact, claims that the 24-year-old is still far from the finished article and has much of his potential still to fill.

But Mourinho was also clearly irked by comments from Rooney, who claimed United need to use Pogba as a “box to box” player, and Giggs, who was critical of the manager’s failure to get the most out of the midfielder’s attacking talents

“I had a few laughs over the past week because I heard, I watched, I had a chance to read a few things and I’m not English but I understand English enough to understand what I want to say with ‘box to box,’” said Mourinho.

 “But with some comments from important people in football I got a little bit confused because for me ‘box to box’ means you have to be good in this box, you have to be good on this road and you have to be good in that box.

<span>Pogba greets <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/alexis-sánchez" data-ylk="slk:Alexis Sanchez">Alexis Sanchez</a> at full-time against Huddersfield</span> <span>Credit: PA </span>
Pogba greets Alexis Sanchez at full-time against Huddersfield Credit: PA

“To play free of defensive duties, that’s not ‘box to box.’ That’s a box IN the box and stay in the box and doesn’t move from the box!

“But I just think - midfield players. And, for me, Paul is a midfield player. He is not a left back, he is not a striker.

"So, people ask what is the best position for Paul to play - Paul is a midfield player. It doesn't matter the tactical system the team plays, he will always be a midfield player.

"Between me and Paul there are no confusions - he is a midfield player and that's it. And it is difficult to find a midfield player with more potential than Paul has. Paul has everything."

Why can't Jose Mourinho get the most out of Paul Pogba?

Regardless of Pogba’s best position, Mourinho also believes that despite the club record £89.3 million paid for him, it is unreasonable to expect the Frenchman to be the finished article, despite his experience.

“I think every player is in evolution until the end of his career,” said Mourinho. 

“Of course when you’re a young kid, you have more to develop, more to learn, but until the end of your career I think a player has things to learn, things to improve, things to adapt and I don’t see a problem with that.”

One player whose development has impressed Mourinho is left-back Luke Shaw who has won over his manager with recent performances. It is believed United have activated a one-year extension to keep him with the club until 2019 but Mourinho is looking longer-term.

He said: “I know Shaw since he arrived in the Premier League with Southampton and know his potential and quality. 

“Could he work in my direction? The way I like my players to be not just on the pitch but during the training week? He made a big effort. 

Man Utd number sevens

“He’s been free of minor injuries for a few months which sometimes stops the evolution and I’m really happy. The natural consequence of it is that he will have his contract and he will be a United player for years.”

United visit Newcastle on Sunday, where Mourinho has never won a league game in six attempts and at a stadium which will always be associated, in his mind, with his former mentor Sir Bobby Robson.

“I think it’s difficult, honestly, I’ve always felt beautiful matches but difficult. I like to go there and like the feeling of going to Mr Robson’s home,” he said.

“I like the stadium, I think it’s really nice and the atmosphere. They are good and enthusiastic. I like the Geordies. I lost and drew a few times. I hope the result is different but I know the characteristics of the game are not going to be different.”

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