Both José Mourinho and Paul Pogba Need to Put their Egos to One Side6 min read
Easy to Understand Pogba Frustration
Whenever there is a dispute in football, many agendas are leaked into the media in order to sway the narrative in their favour. This is done through camps of the players with close relationships to journalists that they trust. And this is exactly what happened when Paul Pogba and José Mourinho went up against one another last week.
From the French midfielder’s perspective, you can understand why he might be disheartened with his role in the team. Having played in a successful Juventus team in which he was utilised as a left-sided midfielder in a three-man midfield, guarded by two defensive-minded players in Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo, he is now being primarily used in a more defensive two-man midfield with a lot more culpability on his shoulders.
Having those seasoned professionals beside him, as well as the robust partnership in Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci behind him, Pogba was able to express himself going forward and was given very few defensive responsibilities.
Pogba Must Help the Team Defend
However, as Mourinho has rightly demanded of him, Pogba needs to work for the team and by doing so, has to improve defensively in either a two-man or three-man midfield. When you look at the likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in their prime, two players that loved nothing more than to roam forward, they always put the team’s needs first and carried out defensive duties in the matches that demanded it from them. Pogba needs to do the same.
The Frenchman’s strengths are not picking up the ball from the halfway line and driving through the opposition’s midfield and defence: It is receiving it in-between the lines, sharply turning, and finding an exquisite pass to play in-behind the defence. United’s transitional game from defence into attack is far greater with Pogba when he is in-between the lines and has the chance to play facing the goal with space around him.
Pogba is not a traditional number six, but instead he is more of a free-roaming number 8, causing havoc behind enemy lines and with little defensive responsibility. However, it is easy to understand why Mourinho wants more from a player of his calibre, especially in the bigger games when everything is on the line.
Manchester United face Chelsea at the weekend, in what could be a defining moment for the Premier League’s top four race. The Blues have rekindled last season’s form of late with a well-deserved draw against Barcelona, while United’s performances have been shy of their best.
There is no doubt about it that the Red Devils are a lot more fluid going forward, and as a team generally, with the former Juventus man in the team. Pogba is a hub of creative intelligence and is the catalyst to get Mourinho’s men on the front foot.
Mourinho Need to Focus on Chelsea Match
While Mourinho can ask Pogba to improve his diligence in defence, it would be wrong to stifle him in a formation that clearly does not promote his strengths, and instead highlights his weaknesses. The Frenchman is not perfect, he is still only 24, but he is coming into his prime and therefore does need to improve on the areas of his game that are lacking.
But while Pogba can learn to improve defensively, the Portuguese boss must use him in a formation that complements him. Unless the player alongside Pogba in a two-man midfield is Sergio Busquets, it is going to be very difficult to allow the Frenchman to bombard forward and create chances down the other end of the pitch.
When Mourinho switched to a 4-3-3 formation earlier in the season, over the Christmas period, the team, and Pogba, looked much better for it. The speed of the ball was quickened with every pass, there were some great interchanging moments between the midfield and forward line, and Pogba was on a run of assists as he could get into the danger areas.
There is fear among supporters that Pogba might force a move away if this confrontation does not ease itself before the summer, but Manchester United will not let that happen. Mourinho pushes the buttons of his players, but usually gets the reaction he is looking for at some point after. Just look at how he has handled Luke Shaw and see how well the English left back is now playing.
Briefing your side of the argument to the media is commonplace, but with hugely significant matches on the horizon, both Mourinho and Pogba need to put their egos to one side and attempt to find a solution to benefit both parties which results in the best for the team.