Under-fire Jose Mourinho retains Manchester United‘s full backing, but the post-Brighton fallout continues after Paul Pogba‘s agent Mino Raiola referenced the midfielder’s potential exit in an attack on Paul Scholes.
A frustrating summer in terms of preparations and transfer business led the United manager to forewarn of a “difficult season”, with the Portuguese highlighting the first few weeks as a particular challenge.
Mourinho’s men opened the campaign with a 2-1 home win against Leicester, but their first Premier League away game ended in embarrassment as Brighton triumphed 3-2 to intensify scrutiny on United’s players and manager.
Odds on Mourinho becoming the first manager to leave their post tumbled in the wake of the shambolic south-coast display, with former Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane mooted as replacement.
“Why would we discuss him when there is no job available?” a senior United source said when Zidane was mentioned as a replacement for Mourinho.
It is understood that Mourinho retains the full backing of the club’s hierarchy, who entered the season confident that the so-called third-season syndrome will not take hold this term.
Yet the United boss clearly has work to do with his players in the wake of the Brighton loss, which led to a report that disillusionment is growing in the dressing room.
Pogba’s happiness is the most hotly-debated topic and was fuelled by his agent Raiola’s cryptic comments as he hit out at Scholes for questioning the France international’s leadership qualities when captain at Brighton.
“Some people need to talk for fear of being forgotten,” he wrote on Twitter. “Paul Scholes wouldn’t recognize a leader if he was in front of Sir Winston Churchill. @paulpogba
“Paul Scholes should become sports director and advise Woodward to sell Pogba. Would be sleepless nights to find Pogba a new club @paulpogba”
Paul Scholes should become sports director and advise Woodward to sell Pogba. Would be sleepless nights to find Pogba a new club @paulpogba— Mino Raiola (@MinoRaiola) August 21, 2018
While defending his client amid criticism is understandable, Raiola’s reference to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward seemed gratuitous, as did his talk of finding a new club.
Barcelona are widely-reported to be interested in the World Cup winner, but United are understood to have no intention of selling a player that returned to Old Trafford in 2016 for a world-record fee.
It was recently reported that Pogba was so unhappy that he has informed Woodward of his desire to leave, with the midfielder exacerbating such talk by saying he would get fined if he really opened up about his happiness.
Contentment appears an issue across the board despite United’s season being at the embryonic stage.
Unsettled Anthony Martial was fined for returning late following the birth of his second child – something that got under Mourinho’s skin, just as United’s inability to improve his squad has.
Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant arrived this summer, but the United manager had hoped to add a centre-back and an attacker before the transfer deadline.
The former was a priority for the United boss, but a number of options were unavailable, such as Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire, while others came with prohibitive demands from clubs or agents.
The awful display at Brighton of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof – two Mourinho signings – did little to quell the debate, leading former captain Gary Neville to say Woodward should have backed the manager’s judgement.
“The minute he gave Mourinho a contract extension in January, he had to buy him centre backs,” he told Sky Sports.
“(Toby) Alderweireld and (Harry) Maguire would have been good options. If it costs £120 million, that’s what you have to do.”
Neville believes this has been a “messy” fortnight from a board perspective, with the image of stony-faced Woodward getting widespread attention after the Brighton defeat.
“It was a show of frustration but that also could be interpreted as another show of dissent,” the former United right-back added.|
Woodward is understood to have gone to the dressing room, like normal, with non-executive director Michael Edelson after congratulating their Brighton counterparts on Sunday.
Mourinho was away doing post-match media duties, as he tends to be when United directors come to the dressing room, but Woodward is sure to be tuned into his next media appearance previewing Monday’s trip to Tottenham.
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