Football

Pogba dropped to send a message?

Neville believes Mourinho might be teaching star a lesson, but United boss says it was not a punishment

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho may have dropped star midfielder Paul Pogba in place of youngster Scott McTominay to teach the Frenchman a lesson.

That was the verdict of former Red Devils stalwart Gary Neville after Pogba was surprising left out of the starting XI for United's 2-0 English Premier League win over Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford on Saturday.

He told Sky Sports: "Pogba in particular, it was obvious Jose Mourinho was furious with him at times during the game (against Tottenham Hotspur last Wednesday)...

"It was a big call to take Pogba out of the team but maybe he needs it because, ultimately, the other night against Tottenham, he was poor.

"They've not lost with him in the team this season.

"They are a far better team with him in it, but maybe Jose's thought he needs a bit of a lesson and he needs to show him that he's looking at the other night and he's showing the dressing room.

"This could be a message to the dressing room saying, 'I'm leaving out our most expensive player, I'm taking him out of the team because I need to show there's a consequence of what they did on Wednesday night.'"

Mourinho, however, insisted he was not "punishing" United's £89.3 million (S$166.2m) record signing.

He told United's club website:

"I changed a few players, thinking about the characteristic of this game.

"The intention was not to punish anyone; to punish someone, I also need someone to punish me because we are a team. When we win, we win together and when we lose, we lose together...

"Paul had a great attitude when he came on, with the spaces we had at that time, because we were winning 1-0 and he could show his talent and qualities...

"To sit on the bench for one day is not the end of the world."

In the absence of the 24-year-old midfield tyro, it was new signing Alexis Sanchez who stole the show.

The Chilean scored his first goal for United from a penalty rebound, doubling the Red Devils' advantage 13 minutes after after Romelu Lukaku had given them a 55th-minute lead.

The 29-year-old was given a rough ride by a physical Huddersfield side, but Mourinho was sure the Chilean could handle the attention.

He said: "Alexis is a fantastic player but not a prima donna.

"He's a humble guy, who doesn't forget where he started.

"I'm pretty sure when he was playing in Chile, he had difficult places to play with difficult performers and he's quite used to it."

Former England striker Alan Shearer believes United fans can get used to having a difference-maker in their ranks.

He said on the BBC: "Alexis Sanchez made the difference.

" He was the player who had the drive, energy, pace and aggression.

"It wasn't a great performance from Manchester United but it was a very good one from Sanchez.

"He was dragging his team forward with the pace of his play.

"He got the little bit of luck his performance deserved with the penalty rebound. He was their best player without a doubt."

It wasn't just in attacking areas that Sanchez made an impact, with United's midfield screener Nemanja Matic lauding his new teammate's defensive qualities.

He told the BBC: "Sanchez played really well and he will be a very important player for us with his quality.

"He is very good on the ball and does a great job defensively."

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