Football

Mourinho offers few clues for dropping Pogba from first XI

Man United manager says he merely wanted to 'try different qualities with different players'

EPL
MAN UNITED HUDDERSFIELD
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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho offered only the briefest explanation as to why he dropped the club’s record signing Paul Pogba for Saturday’s (Feb 3) 2-0 Premier League win over Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford.

The Frenchman had been criticised for his midweek performance in the 2-0 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley, during which he was substituted in the 63rd minute after having an animated conversation with Mourinho on the touchline.

On Saturday, the manager refused to go into details about what was said but a video was widely shared on social media showing the Portuguese gesticulating at the Frenchman.

Subsequently, Pogba was dropped to the bench for the first time since joining United for £89 million (S$165 million) in August 2016, with 21-year-old midfielder Scott McTominay named in his place.

Asked why the Frenchman had been left out, Mourinho said: “Just change, try different qualities with different players.”

Pogba eventually came on as a 65th-minute substitute for Jesse Lingard in a disjointed United performance that still saw United close the gap on leaders Manchester City to 13 points.

“We had to be patient but had to keep the intensity high and the pressure. We had to break down the Berlin Wall organised so well by (Huddersfield manager) David Wagner,” said Mourinho.

Although Pogba has delivered some excellent displays this season, he has also been criticised on several occasions, notably for his rash sending off against Arsenal.

Mourinho also said that Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini, who limped off injured against Spurs, has undergone knee surgery and will be out for at least two months.

“He had surgery this morning,” said Mourinho. “I don’t want to be very specific. It’s not the end of his season, not at all. It’s a small intervention in his external (lateral) meniscus and I want to believe that by the end of March he can be back.

“If he can be back by the end of March, I hope we have a big April and a big May still to play in more than one competition.”

Fellaini first injured his knee playing for Belgium last October and has already had two spells out trying to rectify the problem. – AFP

Manchester UnitedJose Mourinhopaul pogba