Jose Mourinho has ordered Manchester United’s record-signing Paul Pogba to show consistency on the training ground, as well as in competitive action, following his stunning display against Premier League leaders Manchester City last weekend.
The France international scored two goals – the first time he has done so in the Premier League – in a remarkable second-half recovery from United as they won the Manchester derby 3-2 to deny City a win that would have seen Pep Guardiola’s men clinch the title.
It was a defiant response from Pogba, whose drop in form had seen him lose his starting place under Mourinho earlier this year, although his manager does not expect him to repeat such displays on a weekly basis.
Mourinho, however, has told Pogba he wants to see greater consistency from him, particularly in training, with the United manager clearly implying the 25-year-old midfielder has not always hit the necessary standards.
“I will tell you what I told him after the (City) match and it’s exactly what I told him – I don’t expect you to be man of the match every week, I don’t expect you to score two goals every week,” said Mourinho.
“I expect you to be consistent in a certain level. So, if you ask me, I’m expecting Paul now to be man of the match every week? No. If I expect him to score goals every match? No.
“But I expect Paul – and I think that’s the challenge he has to put to himself – to keep a certain stability and not to have the good match and the so-so match and the bad match,” the Portuguese boss added.
Pogba’s form, particularly since the January signing of Alexis Sanchez, has been one of the fascinating sub-plots of United’s season with the player reportedly unhappy at the defensive responsibilities he has been asked to perform.
Certainly, in a more advanced role, Pogba was devastating against City and Mourinho clearly believes his £89 million ($126 million) star is capable of repeating that form in the future.
“I think he has to try to keep that level of stability and from that stability of course will appear the special match with the special performance like it happened against City,” he said.
“But he has to go for that stability and to go for that stability, the first thing is stability at training level, stability during the working week. And the past two, three weeks I’m really happy with him.”
United’s strong recent form sees them take on West Bromwich Albion on Sunday looking for an eighth consecutive domestic victory and has raised optimism among supporters over their prospects for next season.
But, despite upsetting City at the Etihad last weekend, Mourinho has urged caution and clearly believes Guardiola will spend lavishly again this summer, while insisting United will not attempt to match his City counterpart’s outlay.
“No. We are not going to spend more than we can. We are not going to do anything crazy,” said Mourinho.
“We are just trying to improve a little bit more, to give sequence to it. That’s what we are going to try.”
Mourinho added: “I think Man City wins the title (this season). They have been the best team during the season and the distance of points at the end of the season will be the consequence of that superiority that they showed.
“But it is not about us and them, I think it is about the six teams. Everybody will try to improve like we did from last season.
“Last season we finished sixth and this season we are going to finish I believe fourth, third or second – hopefully second – and next season we are going to try and improve but let’s see what happens.
“Maybe also Manchester City will invest heavily and they don’t let the others close the gap to them, I don’t know.”
Pep Guardiola saluted his champions-elect for an “outstanding season” after they edged ever closer to the title.
Goals from Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling secured a 3-1 win at Tottenham and ensured the Premier League crown will be City’s in less than 24 hours if Manchester United lose to West Brom on Sunday.
Otherwise City have the chance to clinch the title at home by beating Swansea next Sunday.
Guardiola’s side arrived at Wembley on the back of three successive defeats, which saw them dumped out of the Champions League by Liverpool and miss the chance to seal the Premier League title by beating United.
But their response was emphatic and Guardiola said: “It was a good test against one of the toughest teams in the league.
“We now have 87 points with five games left because we have been outstanding all season.
“People say it was a big failure, what happened last week, but they don’t understand the reality of football.
“You can win the Champions League in seven games, the league is 10 months. I’m sorry, it’s much more important what these guys have done this season.
“Hopefully we can celebrate with our fans against Swansea and be champions because they deserve it.
“It’s one of the best by far. Winning titles in every league is important, with Barcelona was special.
“But the Premier League is one of the nicest and most important.”
Guardiola will not be watching United’s clash with West Brom, preferring instead to play golf with his son.
He added: “Will I hear the scores? Bogey, double-bogey, birdie.
“Of course, okay football is unpredictable. It doesn’t matter. It’s in our hands, we had one chance and now we have another.
“The players deserve all my respect for what they have done this season.”
Jesus struck in the 22nd minute when he raced onto Vincent Kompany’s 60-yard ball and fired home.
Gundogan scored the second from the penalty spot three minutes later after Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris brought down Sterling, although the contact was outside the penalty area.
Christian Eriksen pulled one back for Spurs before half-time but Sterling wrapped up the points in the second half.
Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling were on the score sheet for Pep Guardiola’s side at Wembley who can secure the title next week against Swansea City if Manchester United don’t lose against West Brom on Sunday.
Christian Eriksen did pull a goal back for the hosts but they were well beaten in the end and left with plenty to mull over from the encounter.
ERIKSEN HITTING HIS PEAK
Tottenham fans have been fretting over Harry Kane and his potential departure this summer, particularly if the club fail to win the FA Cup and end up trophyless again. However, they may also have to struggle to keep hold of Christian Eriksen to his in his prime.
With 14 goals in all competitions this season, the Dane has already registered his most prolific campaign. He also has nine assists in the Premier League and at 26, if he were to make a big move, this summer would be the ideal time.
He’s always been a class act but this season has hit a new level of consistency and is in a particularly rich vein of form with his strike to drag Spurs back into this tie making it five goals in his last four appearances.
MAN CITY’S BAD HABIT
This was always going to be a tough fixture but the Citizens started the better of the two sides and after going 2-0 up by the 25th minute, should’ve been out of sight.
However, in what has become a recurring theme for Pep Guardiola’s side, they conceded against the run of play and suddenly Spurs were right back in it after creating their first chance of the game moments before the break.
They were 2-0 up at half-time in the Manchester derby before Manchester United came back remarkably to win 3-2, despite having only five shots in the game. With the way they started their second leg Champions League quarter-final clash against Liverpool, a comeback should’ve been on. But again, they were hit on the break – twice – and ended up losing 2-1.
KOMPANY BOSSES HARRY KANE
We all know that it only takes Harry Kane one chance to score but clearly Kompany was well aware of that as well. Thanks to the City skipper, Tottenham’s talisman didn’t have a sniff inside the penalty area.
Kane had 18 touches over the course of 90 minutes, that’s less than any other player who started the game and more than only Bernardo Silva, Yaya Toure and Moussa Sissoko who played a combined 24 minutes.
He didn’t muster a single shot all game and his biggest contribution was his pass for Eriksen’s goal but given the ricochet, that won’t even go down as an assist – or perhaps the Premier League will be hearing from Kane and Spurs shortly?