Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has hit back at the “lies” being spread regarding a breakdown in his relationship with Paul Pogba.
Having been brought back to Old Trafford in a record-breaking £89 million deal, big things are expected of the France international.
Mourinho’s decision to bench Pogba and haul him off in two of United’s last three fixtures has sparked talk of unrest, with it suggested that a divide in the camp has formed between star midfielder and manager.
The Portuguese coach has, however, told reporters when quizzed on rumours of a rift: “When you say ‘a lot of speculation’ you should say a lot of lies. Because I accept and Paul accepts that he has not been playing well in the last few matches. But that’s all.
“It is my problem, it is the player’s problem. A big lie that our relationship is not good, a big lie that we don’t communicate, a big lie that we don’t agree with his positions and his involvement in the dynamic of the team
“So, be objective and say what we all know: in the last couple of matches he didn’t play well. Period. End of story. Now, it’s my problem and Paul’s problem to deal with it and try to improve his performance level.”
It has been argued that part of the problem for Pogba at present is the confusion regarding his favoured position and how United can bring the best out of him.
That debate is another to have irked Mourinho, with the angry Red Devils boss adding: “I would like you to tell me which position Pogba played in against Newcastle.
“Anyone of you want to tell me? OK, midfield, but did we play with one number six and two number eights, or two sixes and one 10?
“We played with one six and two eights. We played with [Nemanja] Matic as a six, [Jesse] Lingard on the right side of Matic and Pogba on the left side.
“Do you know which is Pogba’s preferred system? Four-three-three. Do you know Pogba’s favourite position in a 4-3-3? Eight on the left, so it’s easy and honest and objective to say Paul didn’t play well against Newcastle, but don’t let people read things that are not true.
Amid the questioning of his form and apparent issues with Mourinho, it has also been suggested that Pogba could look to find a route out of Old Trafford in the summer – with Real Madrid rumoured to be keen on the 24-year-old once again.
Mourinho added: “He had a big injury in the season, big injury, he almost went to surgery like [Ousmane] Dembele in Barcelona with a similar injury, the decision was not to do it and go to a conservative treatment, everyone [was] really happy.
“He had a red card against Arsenal, probably in his best match and the team’s best moment.
“He was out for a long, long time and in this moment he is not playing well, period. And the team needs him at a good level.
“When he is not a good level, the team is not as good. It happens with every team when the most crucial players are not performing.
“You don’t need to come with ‘we want to sell him’, you don’t need that.
“Some people go in that direction, some of them I know for many, many years and their surname is liar, and that’s not nice.
“He plays tomorrow [against Huddersfield].”
United are set to face the Terriers in the FA Cup fifth round, with a testing schedule then seeing them take in meetings with Sevilla, Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Liverpool.