Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has leapt to the defence of Paul Pogba following recent criticism.
The French midfielder has come under a bit of fire recently, particularly during Man United’s recent 2-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur. Speculation that player and manager had a disagreement over tactics was heightened when the pair were in animated conversation during that Wembley defeat, leading to Pogba being hauled off with just over an hour gone in that game.
Club legends such as Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney have had their say on the matter, feeling perhaps that the former Juventus man is being played out of position.
Speaking to the media on Friday ahead of this weekend’s Premier League clash against Newcastle, Mourinho has hit back at the criticism and insisted there is no problem with how Pogba is operating on the pitch, despite his subsequent appearance on the bench in last weekend’s win against Huddersfield:
“I had a few laughs over the past few weeks because I heard, I watch, I had the chance to read a few things and I’m not English but I think I understand English enough to understand what you want to say with box-to-box.
“But with some comments from important people in football, I got a little bit confused because, for me, box-to-box means box-to-box and means you have to be good in this box, you have to be good in this road and you have to be good in that box. It means that you have to defend well in this box, you must have the physical condition, the desire, the intensity, the stamina to go until the other box. In the other box, you have to be good at scoring, creating, heading and so on and so on. Then, when your team loses the ball, you have to go to the other box because I think this is the meaning of the phrase box-to-box.
“I think nowadays, with some pundits, some agents, some family members, I think the concept of the box-to-box is changing a little bit. I think now it looks like we are going to a different concept of box-to-box.
“Paul is a midfield player. He’s not a left-back, he’s not a striker, so when people ask what’s the best position for Paul to play – Paul is a midfield player.
“It depends on the tactical system the team plays – he can play with two, he can play with one, he can play with three [midfielders] but he will always be a midfield player. It doesn’t matter the tactical system the team plays – for me, Pogba is a midfield player. But then, with so many opinions and we are in a world of opinions, people can get a little bit confused. But between me and Paul, there are no confusions.”
The ex-Man United players had suggested that when Pogba is played in a midfield two with Nemanja Matic and Jesse Lingered operating as the number ten, it has a negative impact on his overall game. They went on to state that the club’s rec cord signing would be much more at home in a midfield three, with a holding midfielder behind him.
In the latest episode of the Mixer Irish football podcast, we look ahead to this weekend’s curtain-raising President’s Cup between Cork City and Dundalk and discuss the latest League of Ireland news and transfers.