Mourinho: I don't know about Pogba's illness
Relationship between United manager and his star player show signs of strain
Signs of strain between Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba came to light at Manchester United's 2-0 FA Cup win over Huddersfield Town yesterday morning (Singapore time).
United's star player didn't feature in the match, apparently due to illness.
When asked ahead of the match about the Frenchman's illness, Mourinho replied: "I don't know and I honestly don't care.
"I will think about him after the match.
After the match, the United boss admitted that the 24-year-old was supposed to start the FA Cup tie.
Said Mourinho: "I don't know, I didn't see him.
"Yesterday he was working normally with us...
"He was in the team but this morning he was not feeling right to play.
"So he's ill and now we have to wait to see what is going on."
What is going on between Pogba and Mourinho will likely be a cause for concern among United fans.
Previously undroppable, the United boss had repeatedly come to the defence of his most expensive signing after pundits criticised some of Pogba's performances.
But things started to change when United lost 2-0 to Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League at the end of last month.
Pogba was uncharacteristically hooked off for Juan Mata on 63 minutes.
He was then left out of the starting XI for the 2-0 league win against Huddersfield three days later.
He returned to the starting XI for United's following match, a 1-0 loss to Newcastle United.
But he was again subbed off, this time in the 66th minute for Michael Carrick.
Ahead of yesterday's FA Cup tie, Mourinho slammed talk about a rift with Pogba.
He said: "It's a big lie that the relation(ship) is not good, a big lie that we don't communicate, a big lie that we don't agree with his positions and his involvement in the dynamic of the team.
"So be objective and say what we all know.
"In the last couple of matches he did not play well. Period. End of story."
However, the British press don't seem to believe Mourinho.
The Sun reported yesterday that the United boss was involved in a bust-up with Pogba and Phil Jones after the loss to Newcastle.
They said he slammed the Frenchman for being "too casual" and "too careless".
The Sun quoted a Newcastle insider as saying: "Mourinho was furious - everybody could hear him shouting at Pogba and Jones."
And it isn't just The Sun who believe all is not right between Mourinho and Pogba.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the Daily Telegraph's deputy football correspondent Jason Burt said "it's quite obvious that there's an issue, and you can tell by the way Mourinho is talking about it".
The United boss might not be openly airing any criticism of his midfield maestro, but his comments about Pogba's replacement Scott McTominay have been interpreted by some as a sly dig at the flamboyant Frenchman.
Said Mourinho: "Honestly, I think Scott deserves more than what he is getting.
"I think maybe it's because he's this kind of kid: a normal haircut, no tattoos, no big cars, no big watches, humble kid."
Pogba is synonymous with his ever-changing haircuts and flashy sense of style.
Former England boss Steve McClaren believes that Pogba is merely suffering from a blip in form and Mourinho is "taking control of the situation".
JUST A DIP
The former United No. 2 told the BBC: "He's having a dip and that's all he's having. He's not happy with his performances. It's normal and natural.
"Mourinho is taking control of the situation."
Former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler, meanwhile, feels that the situation would have hurt Pogba's pride.
He wrote in the Daily Mirror: "I can guarantee he knows he's not playing well at the moment, but his pride will tell him it's not all his fault...
"My guess is he's suffering a bit because of the level of the Premier League. In Italy, he was able to play in a system which gave him complete freedom.
"In England teams are more organised."
FA CUP QUARTER-FINALS
- Man United v Brighton
- Leicester v Chelsea
- Wigan or Man City v Southampton
- Sheffield Wed or Swansea City v Rochdale or Tottenham.
Ties to be played from March 16 to 19.