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Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba admitted he had “small issues” with manager Jose Mourinho last season. The 25-year-old briefly lost his place in the starting lineup between January and February, which raised doubt over his long-term future at Old Trafford, but Pogba says such experiences “helps you to grow”.
“It was a better season than the previous one,” he said to reporters ahead of France’s final World Cup group game. “It was an experience. There were some small issues with (Mourinho), but they were nothing in the end. Being a substitute, that sort of thing, it helps you to grow. I have to accept it”.
Dropped after Man Utd’s dip in form in mid-winter
Re-signed from Juventus in 2016, Pogba has made 88 appearances in his second stint at Old Trafford, scoring and creating 33 goals, winning the Europa League and League Cup. The Frenchman hasn’t been able to capture his best form at Old Trafford in either of his two seasons back in Manchester, but things between him and Mourinho were rocky at times in 2017/18.
Pogba has hooked off in the 63rd minute of their Premier League defeat to Tottenham Hotspur by Mourinho on January 31 and was named on the bench against Huddersfield Town three days later. The French international underperformed in a narrow defeat to Newcastle United, eight days after their win over the Terriers and was benched for both legs of United’s Champions League last-16 clash with Sevilla.
During this period, reports came out that Pogba was accusing Mourinho of making him a scapegoat for United’s poor form. Long-term suitors Real Madrid were even trying to bring him to the Santiago Bernabeu as a result of his broken relationship with his manager, but Mourinho had no intention to sell Pogba regardless.
Mourinho signing defensive midfielder to allow Pogba creative freedom
United recently completed a deal for Brazilian midfielder Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk. The 25-year-old is a defensive-minded player who will protect the backline and help to stem the threat of the opposition in the middle of the park.
His influence in a deep-lying role could be of a benefit to Pogba, as the Frenchman may have less responsibilities if Nemanja Matic and Fred are providing cover behind him.
Pogba is comfortable in possession and likes to dictate the play. He’s adept at beating his opponent in a one-on-one and can drive with the ball from deep into the final third. If he’s stripped of defensive responsibilities, United fans will see much more of his quality, so Fred’s signing could be significant.
Despite admitting “small issues” with Mourinho last season, it’s clear the United manager just wants to get the best from the midfielder in 2018/19. Time will tell if it works.