Robert J Wilson sugggests that players tend to hold the upper hand these days…
Mourinho and Pogba’s battle
BROADLY speaking, it can be quite difficult not to have a smirk on your face when discussing the very public fall-out between Jose Mourinho and his most expensive player, Paul Pogba.
Yet again, a seemingly once happy camp is imploding with Mourinho at the helm, but is it totally his own fault?
From the outside looking in, the institution that is Manchester United appears to be very much in turmoil. They have made their worst start to a season since Sir Alex Ferguson’s most testing times as manager back in 1989 before ‘that header’ from Mark Robins in an FA Cup tie at the City Ground, Nottingham, changed football history forever. Or so we are to believe.
The Manchester United board at the time were hugely influenced by Sir Bobby Charlton and he later revealed that it was never their intention to sack the Scotsman after just three seasons.
Charlton, a proper football man, appreciated the foundations that Ferguson was quietly constructing behind the scenes and he made sure they stuck with their man. Twenty-seven major trophies later and that decision now arguably looks the finest ever in professional sport!
Mourinho is going through his own period of sporting adversity and it will be very interesting to see if he can come through it, or is indeed given the time to. The silence from the Manchester United boardroom this time around speaks volumes.
Having been outplayed by the likes of newly promoted Wolves and West Ham and being deservedly eliminated from the Carabao Cup by Championship club Derby County, the knives have been sharpening for a while now. It looks as though Mourinho will do well to make the January transfer window.
The antics and behaviour of Pogba are hardly helping his manager, though. He seems to be the popular school kid who thinks that he is untouchable when it comes to defying his teachers.
Pogba divides opinion. On his day, he is a very talented footballer with plenty of athleticism, clever footwork, offers a goal threat and possesses a strong engine on him - but when he isn’t particularly in the mood, his positional sense can go haywire to the detriment of his team, and he can become sluggish in his defending and passing.
It can prove costly and it is no great surprise when Mourinho hooks him off before he costs his team points. At 25, he is still frustratingly inconsistent.
Sometimes, Paul Pogba plays merely for Paul Pogba and when you are struggling for results, it isn’t the ideal time to be doing that.
It isn’t the ideal time to be messing about on your mobile phone either when your team-mates are struggling to progress in a home cup-tie against a team from a lower division, but there he was, Mr.Look-at-Me, in an all-white tracksuit, high up in the stands at the Theatre of Dreams, projecting himself on social media in the middle of the game. Laughing with your team-mates when your team are struggling does not sit well with supporters and, most certainly, your manager.
Now for me, Pogba typifies what is all wrong with the modern day footballer. He is too flash, he doesn’t care too much for respecting his manager and he would show limited loyalty to Manchester United if another big club came in and offered him and his agent, Mino Raiola, even more money.
First time around, the shrewd Ferguson had worked out Pogba and his agent’s main motivation. Pogba blamed his acrimonious move to Juventus on his lack of game time and, to a certain extent, he had a point after only making seven substitute appearances for the first team, but, on the flip side, that was disrespectful to the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick who were well ahead of him at the time.
As we know, they were all top professionals, as were the other midfielders at that time, Darren Fletcher and Park Ji-Sung. Those two never moaned about a lack of game time because they knew that their chance would come, often in the big games as well.
Granted, Pogba’s move to Juventus was a good one. He got played more, he got paid more, his agent got paid more and he was successful. He settled down in Turin, won four scudettos and a couple of Coppa Italias and played his way into the French national team.
The Pogba brand increased around Europe but it was still a major surprise that it was Manchester United prepared to pay a then world record £89.3 million to take him back to Old Trafford in 2016.
Surely, the warning signs had been there first time around? Wasn’t Ferguson still on the board of directors? Surely, when his agent asked for a reported £27 million for brokering the deal, they should have backed away from it?
Instead, Mourinho placed his faith in the French midfielder and, at times, he has looked like a £89.3 million player. At other times, he’s looked more like an £800,000 player!
Pogba embraces the press and makes ill-ad-
vised comments that create the wrong type of headlines for his manager and his club.
He seems a happy-go-lucky kind of lad and I’m sure he is a very popular teammate at Old Trafford, but it is crying out for him to be more professional. To possibly act like a leader and inspire his team to some much-needed points.
Mourinho has been right to criticise his behaviour and stripped him of the vice-captaincy to make a positive point. Pogba has to become more of a team player and stop pointing the finger of blame at others, well mainly at Mourinho and his defensive tactics.
Now, it will be argued that his national coach, Didier Deschamps, knew how to get the best out on him at the World Cup. It makes for a valid point, but let us not forget that Deschamps has, in the past, left Pogba out of key matches.
Because of that Pogba knew that in Russia if he didn’t play to ‘team orders’ then he could miss out on potentially lifting the World Cup.
To his credit, he excelled at the World Cup and scored a memorable goal in their gripping final win over Croatia. Even Mourinho said he had seen a more ‘mature Paul Pogba’ in Russia.
At club level, it is different, though, because he is on a long and lucrative contract and if the manager leaves him out or upsets him then you can have a problematic player inside your dressing room for a long period of time. It is hard to manage, especially with the transfer window every six months.
Club level is not just four weeks over the duration of a World Cup tournament and with the national team you also have the option of A) sending him home B) leaving him out of future squads.
Mourinho doesn’t have that luxury and it will be interesting to see if he is permitted to cut his losses and sell him to Spain in the New Year.
Of course, Mourinho may be heading for the exit door himself before that. Ultimately, that decision will rest with Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward.
One thing is for certain, there has certainly been a major shift in the favour of the star player above the manager.
Owners and supporters tend to side more with players now and that is a dangerous game to play.
It’s a shame that it has gone that way, because the manager should be control and in charge at all times. Once it’s gone, the dressing room can become a difficult place for a manager to survive.
I’m not too sure Sir Alex would have put up with Pogba’s behaviour this season or indeed some of his inept performances. He always said that ‘control is key’ and you just have to ask David Beckham, Roy Keane, Jaap Stam, Paul Ince and Ruud Van Nistelrooy all about that. Pogba would have been shown the door.
Uneasy alliance: Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho during the Premier League match at the London Stadium
World in motion: Pogba celebrates scoring for France in their World Cup final win against Croatia
Ruthless: Former Man United boss Sir Alex Ferguson
Young gun: Pogba during his first spell at Manchester United