Jose Mourinho has warned Paul Pogba and the rest of Manchester United’s squad that no player is bigger than the club and that it is his duty to ram that message home.
The United manager stripped Pogba of captaincy duties after the France midfielder told him he wanted to leave Old Trafford amid the 25-year-old’s desire to join Barcelona.
Pogba was involved in a confrontation with Mourinho in training on Wednesday morning after the manager took exception to an Instagram post from the player during the Carabao Cup penalty shoot-out defeat to Derby County.
But while Mourinho tried to play down that spat ahead of Saturday’s game against West Ham and confirmed his club’s record £89 million signing would start at the London Stadium after impressing in training, he left his players under no illusions that he will not tolerate any of them getting ideas above their station.
“Manchester United is bigger than anyone and I have to defend that,” Mourinho told reporters. “He [Pogba] is a player like the others. No player is bigger than the club and if I’m happy with his work he plays, if I’m not happy he doesn’t play.”
Mourinho said his relationship with Pogba was strictly professional and referenced an interview the Frenchman had done saying as much, even if it had been to television and not in a mixed zone after a match as he suggested. “Exactly that, it’s exactly that, I think Paul said that in one of his appearances in the famous mixed zone and it is that exactly, he is correct,” Mourinho said. “It is a good relation, player-manager.
“The relation of player-manager is good, it is not anymore a relation of captain-manager but the relation is good. Nobody trained better than Paul Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, some trained as well but nobody trained better, and tomorrow he plays, so end of the story.”
Mourinho claimed the training ground incident was nothing out of the ordinary but he refused to divulge any details and did not react kindly to the suggestion that he could have waited until the television cameras had exited after 15 minutes before confronting Pogba. Pogba had filmed a video of him and Andreas Pereira laughing at team-mate Luke Shaw while United were playing Derby, with wifi problems blamed for the clip being published on Instagram shortly after the end of the game.
“I have to train as always, I don’t care about the cameras,” Mourinho said when asked why he did wait until the cameras had gone before rounding on Pogba. “What confrontation? I cannot tell you [what was said]. The training session was open, you had some cameras with some potential to get some of the words, maybe you have to change the potential if you want to know everything that is said because I’m not going to comment. It was a conversation.”
Asked if this week’s events had been disruptive to preparations for the West Ham game, Mourinho responded: “Disruptive? I think for you it was amazing because you made a story, an incredible story out of 15 minutes of open training session.”
Gesturing at his press officer, Karen Shotbolt, Mourinho continued: “Maybe it is your fault. We should have 15 minutes of training session open because what happened the other day happens many days. Conversations with players I have many, many, many times.
“Loud critics, loud instruction happens every day – coaching is about that but you make story about it so I’m happy the rules are only 15 minutes once a month and situations like that are not going to change, there is no chance you will watch a session.
“I’m happy with his [Pogba’s] work this week, really happy. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday especially because today was not so significant but he trained really well, the team needs good players, players with personality to play, he has and he plays tomorrow. The only thing I’m concerned is you don’t ask me questions, which are more important, the match …”
Pogba was informed by text message last week that he had been stripped of captaincy duties and the news was relayed to the squad in the hours before the Derby game on Tuesday. Mourinho felt it was inappropriate to hand the armband to a player with designs on leaving.
Mourinho said: “I explain very detailed [things] to the people that has to know in detail, which is the squad and especially Paul, so Paul and the other players in the squad know in detail the reason why myself and my coaching staff we decide to do that.
“I always analyse a player as a player and when a player is captain, I analyse the player by the player and captain perspective and, after weeks of analysing and changing opinions with my coaching staff, we made the decision Paul is just a player and not a captain.
“Decision made, I informed the player and the [other] players and when I was asked before the match on Tuesday I confirm and now I confirm and now end of the story.”
Mourinho said he was expecting United to bounce back from the Derby defeat, which perversely he described as a draw. Although the game finished level at 2-2 after 90 minutes, United lost on penalties to exit the competition.
“After the draw on Tuesday, a draw at home against a Championship team, a good Championship team, but against a Championship team is not a good result for us, the same as the draw against Wolverhampton, a good team but a team we have to beat at Old Trafford, he said. “Five matches in September, zero defeats, three victories, two draws, but not good enough and, of course, we want to finish the September month with a good match, a good performance, a good result.”