The war at Manchester United: Is Paul Pogba more indispensable than Jose Mourinho?


It is very difficult to be a successful team on a football pitch when there is murmuring of unrest in the camp. Most notably with Manchester United, football’s most marketable player and one of the games most revolutionary managers, Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho. Reminiscent of the French Football’s unrest in the 2010 World Cup which was, to say the very least, an underachieving squad.

When Paul Pogba signed for a then World record fee in the summer of 2016, he had what can be described as a professional relationship with the manager and to a certain extent a good one. Similar to that which a teacher has with their best student in a class.

Pogba had praise heaped on him from the Portuguese saying the fee paid would soon look cheap and justifiable alongside saying back in January 2017 that the French superstar had the ability to one day become the captain at Old Trafford.

Fast forward to August 2018 when what should now be a mature figurehead in the dressing room returns from what some may say was a stellar individual World Cup, and he wears the armband in the opening game of the season. He scores the opening goal within two minutes, albeit from a spot kick, and helps usher United across the line to take home 3 points.

You all, like myself felt a sense of freshness in the squad with this win, but, only for clouds to be cast over when Pogba said “If you’re not happy, you cannot give your best. There are things I cannot say otherwise I will get fined.”

This statement alone sent journalists pens on an unending writing spree before Mourinho tried diffusing the situation by maintaining faith in Pogba, retaining him as the captain for the 3-2 loss at Brighton. Wolves travelled to Old Trafford, in what was expected to be a difficult game but a convincing victory nonetheless, and Paul Pogba openly criticizes the tactics after the match ended 1-1: “When we are at home we should attack, attack, attack. That’s Old Trafford.” [Sky Sports]

Mourinho quickly retaliated by stripping him of the vice-captaincy but quickly confirmed that was never a title held by the World Cup Winner.

"“Paul was not the vice-captain. We had Valencia as the captain and then we had a group of players that could be the vice-captain – one day I gave it to David De Gea, I gave it to Ashley Young, to Chris Smalling.”"

Is Jose Mourinho turning stale?

There are no jokes, smiles or even sly digs at the opposition as Mourinho once practiced. It begins to make me wonder whether or not his methods are as outdated as people say although I try not to believe that.

And to add fuel to fire, when a manager is underperforming at the theatre of the dreams and a certain back-to-back-to-back Champions League winning manager is on nobody’s payroll the rumours will begin circulating about a potential replacement.

The most recent match against West Ham added injury to insult as Mourinho’s men were embarrassing and the opening minutes of the game showed what level other teams might consider The Red Devils at. West Ham began on the front foot attacking mainly from their right flank rather than sitting back as they did against Chelsea when they played counter-attacking football. Aren’t the Red Devils meant to be as cutting edge as Abramovich’s millennial multi-pound investments?

Paul Pogba watches from the stands as Manchester United lose to Derby County on penalties
Paul Pogba watches from the stands as Manchester United lose to Derby County on penalties /

Craig Bellamy mentioned on Sky Sports’ The Debate:

"“If you’re in the stands for a match as a player then try and respect your teammates who are fighting for the badge on the football field and not posting unnecessary social media feeds.”"

After deep thought, I figured Pogba probably got the nod for captaincy because of videos circulating of his orchestration in the French dressing room during the World Cup, rallying his teammates to put behind their recent failure in the Euros. As good as that was, captains are asked to lead by example and the inconsistency from Paul Pogba proves more deterrent to the team than what he might be saying in the dressing room.

In conclusion, everyone will be divided on opinions but I’d like to believe if anyone is to be axed- it should be Pogba as no player is bigger than the club. Besides, it always seemed from the start that Pogba was more of a Club Signing than a Mourinho signing fueled by the club’s record kit supply deal with Adidas and the player’s history in the academy.

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The other argument is that the former Juventus man is the one man who can possibly lift the whole team single-handedly if the team can be built around him. Jose Mourinho has not reached the maximised his major asset in the same way that Pep Guardiola has done with Kevin De Bruyne, Maurizio Sarri with Eden Hazard and Mauricio Pochettino with Christian Eriksen.