The enforced absence might actually help De Bruyne and keep him fresher for longer this season. He will get a proper rest, the chance to recharge the batteries and have some time off.
WE had a tale of two central midfielders in one city last week, starring the muchloved Kevin De Bruyne, the unloved Paul Pogba, and their post-World Cup adventures. The bad news has since broke for De Bruyne and Manchester City that he will be out for three months with a knee ligament injury sustained in training. I don’t care what you say, injuries like this have to be down to a lack of proper rest time. It is certainly a major contributor and it is getting out of hand. Do not be surprised if more Premier League players who reached the latter stages of the World Cup start going down with various injuries over the next few weeks.
You would think with the fortunes clubs are paying for sports science and medical advice that someone would have worked out that these lads need rest. It would not happen in any other walk of life. You get six weeks off, admittedly not in one block, but it is time you are entitled to away from work and with your family.
Some of these boys have only had two or three weeks away from football and it is not enough. Yes, they are getting paid a lot of money but they are under immense pressure from the day they walk back into a football club in the close season and the body and mind cannot handle it all the time.
If anything, this enforced absence might actually help De Bruyne and keep him fresher for longer this season. He will get a proper rest, the chance to recharge the batteries and have some time off. It is the time off he should have had. He was obviously not ready physically for the new season.
For some of the players returning from the World Cup, it must almost feel like a hangover. Some probably have no interest in being back at their clubs in one way, and probably find it very difficult to concentrate on setting their goals.
Yes, they are sharp now but they are being overworked to a certain degree and I bet one or two players at Manchester City haven’t properly sat down to set their goals for the season. Some have squeezed their holidays in to get back to work and not pressed their reset button. That’s not good.
De Bruyne is one of the most technically-gifted players, the complete midfielder, so he will be sorely missed, but his absence of course means an opportunity for someone else. Pep Guardiola has plenty of options but can Riyad Mahrez step into his shoes? Is this the opportunity for Phil Foden?
I think they will consider playing Mahrez in the role and while I know he likes to come inside naturally, I don’t think the £60m summer signing from Leicester can play in there against top-quality sides, although he might get away with it against the weaker teams.
Foden obviously needs games and this could and should be his opportunity, if Guardiola thinks he can trust him and is serious about his youth system.
It will be interesting to see what impact the De Bruyne injury has on the whole chain at Manchester City and how much it prevents other players further down the line going out on loan, such as Foden. There is quality throughout the club in the youth ranks and opportunities like this might not come along very often for Guardiola to have a good look at the kids.
As for Pogba, Jose Mourinho and Manchester United, it all looks like a divorce waiting to happen. And I put the blame firmly at the manager’s door.
A few weeks ago, when he was spreading his misery on tour with Manchester United around the US, Mourinho indicated he wanted to see more of his World Cup players sacrificing their holidays to return to pre-season training. Pogba was clearly his target.
The worst case World Cup scenario for Mourinho was France winning it and Pogba having a good competition. He needed France to fail. Suddenly, Pogba has all the power in the world because he knows every club would love to take him and there is nothing Mourinho can do. Pogba just wants to be loved but Mourinho will never love him.
No one emerges from this story with much credit but I do think it is Mourinho’s responsibility to keep his criticism and observations in-house.
Players never want to let their manager down, and they should all be scared of him to a certain extent. It doesn’t seem to me that Pogba has any fear of Mourinho and he is only empowered by his performances in Russia — which were much closer to the Pogba we expected to see when he joined United two years ago.
Look at how Mourinho has handled Luke Shaw. There is some understanding for the manager because the defender has not played enough, has not shown much improvement at Old Trafford, and suddenly he looks like a man who has spent two months in the gym and is serious about his football.
But Mourinho should still not hammer him in public. There is no winner there. Mourinho is clearly under huge pressure. And the miserable way he came back to pre-season and the atmosphere he has been generating around Manchester United does not bode well.
I cannot see him seeing out the season. He looks like he needs a rest and I would say his next move will be into international management.
He looks fed up. But then if I was looking at a third year in a hotel I would be miserable too. It is tough being away from your family. I spent a year in a house on my own in Ipswich while the wife and kids were in Birmingham or Ireland. It nearly drove me insane and I remember thinking, many times, how was I going to survive it. It’s not going to help your state of mind, that’s for sure.
On the evidence so far, Mourinho needs to change his — before it’s too late.
It looks like a divorce waiting to happen