Jose Mourinho was adamant on Friday that his relationship with Paul Pogba was “good” and said that the Frenchman would play in Manchester United’s Premier League match at West Ham United on Saturday.
Yet at the end of a turbulent week which saw United knocked out of the League Cup by second-tier Derby County before the manager announced he had dropped Pogba as vice-captain, Mourinho also added pointedly: “No player is bigger than the club.”
Mourinho was again insistent that there was no problem with his relationship with France’s World Cup winner even though he had made the decision, after consultation with other coaches, to demote Pogba from the vice-captaincy.
The manager, though, would again give no public explanation of why he had taken the position from his most influential player.
There had been much speculation that Mourinho had finally lost patience after Pogba’s comments to the media following last week’s tepid league draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers, in which the midfielder suggested United needed to “attack, attack, attack.”
“The squad and especially Paul know in detail why myself and my coaching staff decided to do that,” said Mourinho on being asked why he had made the decision to strip Pogba of being Antonio Valencia’s deputy as captain.
“After weeks of analysing and changing opinions with my coaching staff, we made the decision that, from now, Paul is just a player and not a captain.
“So decision made, I informed the player and the players and then, when I was asked before Tuesday’s match (against Derby), I confirmed it.
“The player-manager relation is good. Nobody trained better than Paul on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And tomorrow he plays. So, end of the story.
“He is a player like the others. No player is bigger than the club and if I’m happy with his work, he plays and if I’m not happy with his work he doesn’t play. I’m really happy with his work this week.”
Asked if he was concerned about United’s reputation after a week which had also seen footage emerge of a frosty training ground exchange between himself and Pogba, Mourinho said: “Manchester United is bigger than anyone and I have to defend that.”
The footage was watched and analysed endlessly on social media but Mourinho said he didn’t care that it had been picked up by the cameras.
Asked if it had been disruptive, Mourinho responded: “Disruptive? You made an incredible story out of 15 minutes of an open training session.
“What happened the other day happens many days. Conversations with players I have many, many times. Loud critics, instructions happens every day.”
United head to the London Stadium in urgent need of a pick-me-up as they lie seventh in the league, already eight points off the pace being set by leaders Liverpool and questions growing about Mourinho’s ability to inspire his prosaic-looking side.