Jose Mourinho angrily dismissed “lies” and “b******t” about his relationship with Paul Pogba – but the Manchester United manager does want more from his midfielder, starting in the FA Cup at Huddersfield.
The build-up to Saturday’s fifth-round clash in West Yorkshire has focused around the 24-year-old as reports had suggested he was irritated at playing so deep, and was even regretting re-joining United.
Mourinho was also reported to be annoyed by Pogba’s inability to function in a two-man midfield, but all that talk has been dismissed out of hand by the United boss.
“I think you are nice with your words because when you say ‘a lot of speculation’ (regarding Pogba) you should say a lot of lies,” the Portuguese said.
“Because I accept, and I can speak on Paul’s behalf without any kind of problem, Paul accepts that he has not been playing well in the last few matches. But that’s all.
“And if you want to speak about it, then that’s one thing and then your word ‘speculation’ maybe makes a little bit of sense, but the majority of things you can read and listen, don’t be nice, be objective and say (it’s) lies.
“I don’t have to speak with you about my conversations with my players. I don’t have to tell you anything about it.
“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. You don’t need to be a liar.”
Mourinho confirmed Pogba will start at Huddersfield in an intense press conference previewing the fifth-round clash.
Criticism and scrutiny from pundits has clearly got under the United manager’s skin – “I would like them to tell me which position Pogba played in against Newcastle” – and threw questions to reporters in the room.
Mourinho clarified that Pogba’s preferred formation is 4-3-3 and playing as an “eight on the left”, before urging the media to explain the game and not talk “b******t”.
“He was out for a long, long time and in this moment, he is not playing well,” the United boss said, referring to Pogba’s hamstring injury. “Period.
“And the team needs him at a good level and when he is not a good level the team is not as good as when he plays phenomenal.
“I think it happens with every team when the best players, the most crucial players for some reason are not performing. Period.”
Eric Bailly is in line to return at Huddersfield after a three-month absence with an ankle injury, but Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford will miss out with unspecified muscle complaints.
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