Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jose Mourinho has suggested that it is up to Paul Pogba to explain why he has been so inconsistent for Manchester United this season.
The midfielder was in fine form for France on Tuesday, scoring with a 30-yard free-kick after setting up a goal for Kylian Mbappe in a 3-1 friendly international victory over Russia in Saint Petersburg.
Pogba, though, has struggled for United in recent months.
Having scored in their first two Premier League matches of the season, he has managed only one club goal since then, which came in a 4-1 victory over Newcastle on November 18.
There have been numerous reports of disharmony between Pogba and United manager Mourinho, with France coach Didier Deschamps publicly suggesting the midfielder cannot be happy at Old Trafford.
Mourinho has repeatedly refused to give credence to those reports, but has made clear that Pogba’s problems have nothing to do with a hamstring injury suffered in September.
The 25-year-old missed more than two months of football after sustaining the injury during a Champions League group-stage victory over Basel, and has not looked as good a player since returning.
– ‘Ask him’ –
Questioned as to why that was, Mourinho told a news conference on Friday: “Ask him. Ask him when you get a chance when he thinks about it.”
On Pogba’s loss of form, the Portuguese manager added: “It’s nothing to do with his injury. His recovery was good.
“This season and also last season (he had a bad injury). I think he is very fine after the injury.
“It was a difficult injury, it was an injury that other players, other clubs, other medical assessments — they end in surgery.
“I think he is more than fine in relation to his recovery from the injury, which is an area sometimes where you have a recurrence. In his case, not at all.”
Pogba, signed for a club-record fee of £89 million ($125 million, 101 million euros) from Juventus in 2016, has endured a difficult time since his return from injury in November, amid claims –- dismissed as “lies” by Mourinho in February – that he had fallen out with the United boss.
He surprisingly pulled out of United’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Huddersfield because of illness, and Pogba then lost his place in the starting line-up to Scott McTominay for the first leg of a last-16 Champions League tie against Sevilla.
Having regained his place, Pogba suffered an injury that forced him to miss the Premier League win over Liverpool on March 10, and looked off the pace when he appeared as a substitute for the home defeat by Sevilla three days later that ended United’s European campaign.
Mourinho, meanwhile, suggested there is nothing more he can do to help the midfielder.
“I work. It’s the only thing I can do. I cannot do anything else,” he said.
– No need for Ibrahimovic replacement –
The United manager, meanwhile, has suggested he will not seek to sign a centre forward at the end of the season to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who left Old Trafford last week to join LA Galaxy.
Mourinho believes he has enough attacking options with Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Alexis Sanchez all available for the number nine role next season.
“We have Lukaku and Marcus as number nines,” he said. “Of course, Marcus can play right and left but Marcus is a striker, and so are Lukaku and Rashford.
“Alexis can play as a striker, Martial can play as a striker. So we have three more players who can play as a nine.
“If we don’t have Lukaku for whatever reasons, we can change a system and play with a two, and give more mobility to, for example, Marcus and Martial together, Marcus and Alexis together. So we are not going to go for another number nine.”
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