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23rd Dec 2017

Jose Mourinho reacts strongly to Paul Pogba question in post-match press conference

Short shrift

Patrick McCarry

Paul Pogba had to put up with some crap over the past 24 hours but Manchester United’s failure to beat 10-man Leicester City means he is not out of the woods yet.

Pogba had a decent outing at the King Power Stadium but the failure of several United teammates to kill off the game, when they were leading 2-1, was out of his hands.

So too was the decision of a hobbling Chris Smalling to play Harry Maguire onside and then to allow a Marc Albrighton cross to evade him without as much as a jump. Smalling was left holding his hand up but it was literally too late to do anything about it – game over and a 2-2 draw.

Following the result, which now leaves United 13 points adrift of champions elect Manchester City, Mourinho was in spiky form. He remarked:

“I don’t know how we haven’t won, we didn’t win because we missed incredible chances, I would say joke chances.”

Mourinho also criticised his defenders for lacking maturity and not being able to cope with Smalling being injured, only to return in the dying moments of the game. Pogba, who had captained United, escaped Mourinho’s ire but he was on the pitch at the death so may not escape blame in the post-match review sessions.

It has been a strange few weeks for the French midfielder – he has been in good form this season but injury and suspension have prevented him from truly bedding in. His red card against Arsenal was unfortunate but cost United of his services for three crucial games, and he was definitely missed.

There were also Saturday morning newspaper reports – one-sided, we must add – of him missing a Monday morning training session after that Arsenal game and of him not impressing the likes of senior players Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ashley Young and Michael Carrick with his attitude and off-pitch behaviour.

Perhaps as a response to this, Mourinho asked Pogba to take the captain’s armband despite the presence of Smalling and Young in the starting XI. Near the end of his post-match press conference, Mourinho was asked if he would consider Pogba as his long-term captain. Irritated, he answered:

“Do you think I want to talk about that now?”

That was the query shut down.

United are showing signs of cracking and it is hardly a surprise – Manchester City are relentless and it must be sapping to chase a team that are merely picking up the pace.