COMMENT: The Jose Mourinho vs Paul Pogba feud will only have one winner
We do not know the state of Jose Mourinho’s relationship with Paul Pogba, no matter how many well-sourced articles we read
The Manchester United manager and his team’s talisman could very well be besties, spilling the T every evening, laughing to each other as they watch Graeme Souness’ latest puce red diatribe on the Frenchman who just cannot seem to win him over.
Alternatively, that might not be the case whatsoever. Mourinho and Pogba might never speak about anything of note. They may exchange pleasantries at Manchester United’s Carrington training ground, pleasantries which become increasingly passive aggressive with each passing minute.
Media coverage of their relationship would certainly suggest that this is the most accurate version of events.
Watch any recent interview with either Pogba or his manager and you can be almost certain to hear at least one question about the other.
“How is your relationship with Jose, Paul?”
“Why is Paul so much more effective for France than for your side, Jose?”
Journalists know that by asking these questions they will make headlines, regardless of the answer.
Ideally, they’ll get the golden soundbite, but even a refusal to answer can be spun into “Pogba/Mourinho refuses to say whether relationship with Mourinho/Pogba is positive”.
Thankfully for journalists neither Pogba and Mourinho are the shy and retiring type, meaning both are regularly forthcoming with teasing details of the dynamic between them.
Following Manchester United’s opening day Premier League victory over Leicester City, Pogba spoke to the media and said, essentially, that he could be fined if he told the truth about his relationship with Jose.
This was roughly a month after Jose, speaking as a pundit on RT, claimed that Pogba performs better for his country because he is a player better suited to the demands of a short, condensed tournament, rather than the 38-game slog that is the Premier League season.
These sort of comments, and the regularity with which they are made, make it easy to see why people believe that this relationship is heading in one direction. It is simmering, slowly but surely, on the unmistakable journey to boiling over violently.
It is inevitable, many perhaps rightfully think, given that neither man is good at or inclined to biting their tongue.
So, what happens if the inevitable comes to pass?
In the battle between Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho, who will be assassinated and who will be the coward?
On the surface it seems logical to conclude that Mourinho will win out. He is the manager of the football club, and has been trusted with hundreds of millions of pounds in recent seasons in a bid to do something - anything - that will elevate the club back to somewhere resembling its perch.
Maybe not the perch upon which they had previously rested, but definitely an improvement upon their current lodges: a seemingly luxury complex which unfortunately comes with neither electricity or gas, a shit-hole with faux-marble counters.
Mourinho is now at the beginning of his third season at Old Trafford. This is enough for some supporters to feel panicked. The former Chelsea coach has a propensity to jump ship during or after the third season. He has a propensity to jump ship because he has a propensity to pick up a can of petrol and set the ship on fire. Jumping ship, in this case, makes sense.
This sense has been exacerbated by the fact that the trust previously given to him by Manchester United's board - the trust which saw the manager given £392 million to spend on players since arriving at Old Trafford - has seemingly been taken away.
Shortly after the transfer window closed it was revealed that the club's chief executive Ed Woodward had told Mourinho that the club would not spend significant money on a new central defender unless it was a footballer of proven quality, such as Real Madrid's Raphael Varane.
As Mourinho's stock has plummeted, Pogba's has gone in another direction.
While he has been criticised incessantly since returning to Old Trafford from Juventus in the summer of 2016, Pogba remains one of the biggest stars in world football, and his status - both commercially and professionally - was only increased by his role in France's World Cup win in Russia during the summer.
In the current climate at Manchester United, it is Paul Pogba's commercial standing that makes him a truly formidable foe for Jose Mourinho.
Were Pogba just another midfielder - an Ander Herrera or Nemanja Matic - he would not stand a chance if the club felt forced to choose.
Pogba isn't just another midfielder though, instead he is increasingly becoming a much more relevant figure in football than his manager, and one who continues to help drive the Glazers' multi-billion dollar machine year-on-year.
While traditionalists will rage against the perceived example of "player power", the simple fact is that from both a football and commercial point of view Paul Pogba is significantly more valuable to his club than Jose Mourinho is.
Jose's backers too will claim that replacing him with a manager of an equal standard will be nigh on impossible, but the truth is that there are many managers of equal or higher standing in the game than Mourinho, the majority of whom are not wedded to an antiquated style of football and management which almost guarantees alienation of both players and supporters.
Replacing Jose Mourinho is manageable, replacing Paul Pogba is not. If it truly does become a case of Manchester United choosing between the two, this will become abundantly clear.