Mourinho v Pogba is the box office part of Manchester United's many issues
Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho's relationship is at breaking point (Photo via Manchester United Twitter)

Mourinho v Pogba is the box office part of Manchester United's many issues

The ongoing feud between Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba is damaging Manchester United, but it is just part of the many issues within the club.

Craig Millar

"It's sad, so sad, it's a sad, sad situation....and it's getting more and more absurd". Elton John never wrote those lyrics about Manchester United, but they fit quite nicely right now.

Relationships can be difficult, and when they start to break down then it needs both parties to iron out their differences and work at putting things right. 

If they don't things can get messy. And absurd. That is how the relationship between Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba is right now.

When cracks started to appear last season, it could have been that the press coverage was off target, and it was just an opportunity to make a story out of nothing. It doesn't look that way now.

Since last Saturday, it has descended into a farcical situation. 

United drew with Wolverhampton Wanderers and were once again uninspiring. Indeed, Wolves looked the more entertaining and threatening.

In a post-match interview, Pogba pointed out on numerous occasions how he thought United should "attack" more, as he believed teams show fear when United are on the front foot.

Nothing strange there, probably 99% of football fans might agree. Yet when quizzed why they didn't attack more, Pogba said it was not for him to comment as he was just a player. 

Blue touch paper lit.

Mourinho's version of events was that he wanted United to attack and take the game in the way that Wolves did, but he claimed, not in so many words, that his wishes were falling on deaf ears. 

Managers and players falling out is nothing new, but the events leading up to and after the embarrassing League Cup defeat to Derby County are now bordering on bizarre.

Before the game, news broke that Mourinho had told Pogba in training that he would no longer be a captain at United.

After the game, he confirmed this and said, "the only truth is that I made the decision for him not to be second captain any more but there is no fallout, no problem". No problem? No way Jose.

Starting with that 'decision' there are many questions. Why? Why say that to Pogba? Why say that to the media? Why even make that decision? United don't really have a captain, so why make a fuss about his stand-in?

Had United had a 'proper' captain, such as Roy Keane, then maybe this wouldn't have escalated. Keane would have absolutely wiped the floor with Pogba for his comments. 

The footage of training shown on Sky Sports has really shown the depths to which this relationship has plummetted and how United as a team and as a club are being affected.

Pogba jogs in, shakes Mourinho's hand and then Mourinho starts chirping away. He is clearly irked by something Pogba has done again (An Instagram post), but this is during a training session. An open camera training session. 

Embed from Getty Images


The frosty exchange, and that's what it was, was done for the media. This is a game. A power struggle. Mourinho, whether he has a point or not, is determined to win this battle.

It's playground stuff. My Dad is harder than your Dad. It's a boardroom urinating contest. It's toxic, and it is dragging United down. The players looking on in training looked bewildered.

Managers and players fall out. It's nothing new. Normally, it's not played out in public, and that is where both of them need to take a look at themselves.

Rewind a few years, when the greatest manager of all time was at the helm at Old Trafford. David Beckham, Keane and Ruud van Nistelrooy all fell foul of Sir Alex Ferguson.

None of the individual situations drew out into a saga, although Beckham's sort of did. Beckham's was the flying boot, and he got dropped for a number of games after wearing an Alice band and showing his war wound to the public.

It drew quite a bit of media attention, of course, instigated by Beckham. He made his bed, and his goose was cooked. He was out of the door in a matter of months.

Keane had his say, as he normally did, but in an overbearing way and it was the cutting down of his teammates that Ferguson could not tolerate. His exit was done in a matter of days.

Van Nistelrooy had a strop in a League Cup final. He was a substitute but was overlooked and two newbies in Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra both got a run out while van Nistelrooy had a watching brief.

Like Beckham, the end of the season meant the end of his United career.

Would Sir Alex have liked to have kept those players had they not stepped out of line? Probably yes, but even though they were all United legends and two of the three with plenty of playing time still ahead of them, he put the situation to bed.

Though Ferguson was ruthless, he was a genius, and he would not cut his nose off to spite his face.

When he gave his blessing to Cristiano Ronaldo's transfer to Real Madrid in 2009 he accepted losing his best player. He never whined. He never asked the Glazers to buy him another superstar. He bought Antonio Valencia.

What a buy he has been, but not a superstar in the Ronaldo bracket. And that was the new mantra. After Ronaldo went, it was about moulding a talented, hard-working team with a sprinkling of stardust. Not too much.

After Ronaldo's exit, Wayne Rooney was the main man. So when he handed in a transfer request in 2010, Sir Alex again acted swiftly. He knew that selling Rooney would weaken United hugely, and it would cost a lot to find a replacement - if he could.

New contract. Rooney apology. Job done. 

It was widely rumoured that Pogba wanted out in the summer, and the word was that Mourinho was quite happy to see the back of him.

If both parties were happy to sever ties, why is Pogba still at United?

Board not onboard

The Mourinho versus Ed Woodward versus the Glazers wrestling match.

First things first, why is the Pogba situation being allowed to escalate? Just as Pogba reports to Mourinho, Mourinho and therefore Pogba are both accountable to Woodward.

He is watching both individuals dragging the club down, and whilst you don't want him entering the fray publicly, he should have the pair of them in his office and explain exactly how they should behave. 

Mourinho wanted Ivan Peresic in the summer of 2017, and he never got his way. He wanted two more players, other than the one he signed this year. He didn't get one.

If he did want to sell Pogba, and there was much speculation that he wanted Anthony Martial gone as well, then that is several transfer deals that have been vetoed.

Why? Again why? Why are the board stopping Mourinho from doing what he wants? In this day and age, transfers are not straightforward, and United can no longer click their fingers and get a target.

Yet two years ago they managed to pay a world record fee for Pogba and prize him away from Juventus, who were serial winners, and no offer of Champions League football.

If they can't get one from five, allegedly centre-halves, then it does not stack up. And not being able to offload either Pogba or Martial certainly does not stack up.

So, the board are not completely onside with Mourinho. Mourinho's strength is in building a team of men, and paying whatever it takes. By not backing Mourinho to the hilt is like asking Sam Allardyce to deliver trophies - at Bolton Wanderers

He should not bleat. He has had plenty of money to spend, but he is not going to mould a team of kids, or improve what he has. That takes us to the next issue. What is he working with?

Are United's players any good? They don't look good. Last year, they finished second, but apart from a lovely start to the season, the football was not pretty on the eye.

Go through the team, and many have league titles in the bag. Most have some sort of a trophy. Success breeds success, so last season was a disappointment, but the negativity since the summer seems to have a hangover. 

Pogba, in particular, should be bossing every game but he isn't and to a man, you can criticise them individually. Apart from David De Gea. Nobody is putting in consistent performances.

It is hard to say that United have a plethora of world class players because they haven't. Yet the financial figures came out yesterday and United broke records.

Record revenue, but a record wage bill. £60m more than any other team. How is that possible? How are United paying that much more than a Manchester City team that look streets ahead in terms of ability?

To the fans credit, they are still giving United plenty. The away fans remain incredible. They are outstanding in terms of support. At home, there are not many disconcerted voices, and there is still support there.

So if you ignore social media, the fans are still United. Social media is hard to ignore though, and there is an almost Arsene Wenger feel to the Mourinho and Pogba spat.

Some fans back Mourinho, some Pogba.

Why should there be a choice? If the manager is not backed, if there is an irreconcilable problem, then what hope is there? If United take a stance for a player over a manager, then the end is nigh.

That is not to say that the manager is safe, but if one has to go it has to be Pogba. 

The day the United board bow to a players whims - if that is what Pogba's actions are angling for - then you can forget about any happiness down the line. 

It is unlikely, in the light of recent events, that Pogba will play against West Ham United on Saturday. It's a tough game, and if you play without your best player, it's going to be difficult.

Unless everyone pulls in the right direction, then success is almost impossible to achieve. The board, the manager, the players and the fans have to be in sync. 

Jamie Redknapp is a decent pundit, though far from controversial. On Sky Sports, before the controversy went up a notch or two, he said that he did not expect both men to be at United next year, and maybe neither.

It still wasn't controversial, or insightful, but maybe he will be right and maybe it will be for the best.