Football

Wright: Pogba and Mourinho not ‘as close as a few months ago’

Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright isn't buying Jose Mourinho's recent comments about his relationship with star midfielder Paul Pogba.

The Manchester United manager hit out at the media, saying they were publishing "lies" after several newspapers ran reports that his relationship with his midfield maestro was strained.

But ahead of United's Champions League last-16, first-leg clash at at Sevilla, former England striker Ian Wright said it was apparent that all is not well between Mourinho and Pogba.

He wrote in his column for The Sun: "I think we are about to discover a lot about United, the players and the manager.

"Jose can defend his relationship with Paul as much as he likes but it's pretty obvious everything is far from rosy.

"I'm not suggesting it's daggers drawn between the two, or that Pogba wants out.

"That's too far.

"But I am hearing they aren't as close as a few months ago, and that's something United can't afford."

Pogba hasn't completed 90 minutes in a month as he has been hauled off by Mourinho in defeats at Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United, and dropped by the Portuguese for victory over Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford in between.

DEFENSIVE DEMANDS

Reports in the French press emerged last week that Pogba is unhappy with the role given to him by Mourinho, in particular the defensive demands imposed by the Portuguese, reported AFP.

Mourinho pointedly said the Frenchman would have occupied his favoured role on the left of a midfield three for Saturday's FA Cup fifth-round win at Huddersfield if he had not been ruled out hours before the game due to illness.

The arrival of Alexis Sanchez on the left side of the United attack last month has exacerbated those differences as Pogba and the Chilean are yet to complete 90 minutes together.

Mourinho described rumours of a breakdown in communication between he and Pogba as "big lies", but has not hid his criticism of the 24-year-old's form.

He said: "In this moment he is not playing well... and the team needs him at a good level."

No more so than in the next few weeks as in between their two legs against Sevilla, United also host Chelsea and Liverpool in the English Premier League, with all three sides locked in a battle to finish in the top four.

Not long after he returned to United for £89 million (S$163.6 million), Pogba told French magazine So Foot he would be "the new midfielder".

A player he defined as "can defend, he can win the ball, he can make the play, he can pass, he can score".

A concept that doesn't sound too dissimilar to Mourinho's definition of a box-to-box midfielder in recent weeks.

Time will tell if United's star player and coach can harmonise their ideas on paper onto reality on the pitch.

Football