You didn’t really think the drama at Manchester United was over did you? Oh come on.
Tensions are running high at Old Trafford once again and it’s no surprise that it’s once again centered around the relationship between the club’s manager Jose Mourinho and the team’s star player Paul Pogba.
Pogba was absent from Manchester United’s matchday squad for Tuesday’s Carabao Cup loss to Derby County. Ordinarily this shouldn’t be news. It’s the third round of the League Cup, a round where historically the big teams leave their big players out to give a chance to their youngsters and fringe players.
But at Manchester United, it’s never that simple is it? Jose Mourinho did not name a young squad for this match. He didn’t even name a youngster on the bench. The entire 18-man matchday squad was made up of senior players and it can be argued that the team was just two or three changes away from being United’s best XI.
While it’s still just the League Cup, with a team that experienced, Pogba’s absence does stick out. Especially with it coming just three days after Pogba criticized Mourinho’s defensive tactics after a home draw vs Wolves in the Premier League.
For those hoping the story would go away, which is likely just Manchester United’s boardroom, it only got worse. Wednesday morning, a clip of an icy exchange between Mourinho and Pogba on the training ground was posted online. The clip got two million views within an hour.
JUST IN! 😳
Frosty footage just in from @ManUtd's training session between Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho… ❄️
What has been said between the pair this morning? 👀 pic.twitter.com/nRiTEgDJlH
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) September 26, 2018
The video shows how toxic things are getting at Old Trafford. It’s becoming abundantly clear that Pogba and Mourinho can’t co-exist and the club needs to step up and do something. They need to choose one or the other.
All day, there has been a debate on Twitter between fans and pundits alike over how United should proceed, which frankly is a joke. When it comes to choosing between an erratic manager who has never lasted at a club more than three seasons and a 25-year-old budding superstar the choice is simple.
Should United choose Mourinho and sell Pogba in January, they’d be setting the club back by years. The club would likely watch as Pogba blooms into a star wearing someone else’s shirt. This wouldn’t be the first time Mourinho sold a budding star as he deemed both Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah not good enough to play for Chelsea.
There is a large part of the fanbase that wants to move on from Pogba. Many see him as being all about his brand and not focused enough on football, or that he hasn’t met his £89 million price tag.
Pogba is certainly about his brand but that has never detracted from his on field production. His four goals and two assists in seven appearances this year make him United’s most productive player. The four goals is joint top with Romelu Lukaku, who has been very wasteful this season, and is far more than £500k a week Alexis Sanchez has produced.
Pogba was, and is, never going to be a player who scores 25 goals a season, but that doesn’t mean he’s not United’s engine. Statistically speaking, United are a far better team and generate a lot more chances with Pogba than without him. Selling Pogba won’t solve United’s issues, they’ll merely highlight them even more.
On Tuesday night, Jose Mourinho publicly stripped Pogba of the vice-captaincy. Two hours later, that very senior team that Mourinho named went out and laid an egg against a Championship side. They were out-possessed and outshot at home and ended up losing on penalties.
It’s clear what’s happened at Old Trafford, Mourinho has lost the players. ESPN is reporting that the players are angry with the manager but you don’t even need that article. Just look on the pitch and see how the players are, or rather aren’t, reacting to the coach.
The players love Pogba, he’s a leader in the dressing room. The players all raved about him after he wore the armband to open the season against Leiciester. Following the World Cup, the French players couldn’t stop singing his praises and mentioning how vital Pogba’s leadership was in them winning in Russia. If it comes to a full scale war, it’s no secret whose side the players will take.
Paul Pogba is a 25-year-old budding superstar. He’s a World Cup winner. He was a lynchpin on a team that went to the Champions League final. If Manchester United have to choose between him and a proven short-term manager, there shouldn’t be a choice at all.