“I think it was the perfect environment for him.”
The Premier League returns in three weeks and Jose Mourinho already appears tetchy. The Manchester United manager seems understandably unhappy that the club have been quiet in the transfer market. Mourinho is without several key players due to their involvement in the latter stages of the World Cup. He also has to face questions about Anthony Martial, who wants to leave the club, and Paul Pogba, who excelled for France at the World Cup.
Mourinho and Pogba had their issues last season. For United’s biggest game of the season, the Champions League last-16 second-leg defeat to Sevilla, Mourinho opted for Marouane Fellaini ahead of the French midfielder.
The second half of the United’s season was dominated by stories detailing the reported tension between the pair.
However, Pogba put those difficult months behind him to star in Russia. In the semi-final, he put in a disciplined performance as France crept past Belgium. Pogba went one step better with his display against Croatia in the final when he scored as Les Bleus won their second World Cup. United fans are hoping that the 25-year-old can carry his form into the new Premier League season, but Mourinho doesn’t seem convinced that he can.
The United manager has said that Pogba was suited to the nature of tournament football, as the intensity and high-stakes nature of the World Cup enabled him to maintain his “concentration.”
“I think the World Cup is the perfect habitat for a player like him to give [their] best,” Mourinho told ESPN.
“Why? Because it’s closed for a month, where he can only think about football. Where he’s with his team on the training camp, completely isolated from the external world, where they focus just on football, where the dimensions of the game can only motivate. During a season, you can have a big match then a smaller match, then one even smaller, then you can lose your focus, you can lose your concentration, then comes a big match again.
“In the World Cup, the direction of the emotion, of the responsibility, of the big decisions is always growing up. You are in the group phase, you go to the last-16, to the quarterfinals, to the semi-finals, to the finals. This feeds the motivation. This feeds the concentration of a player.”
Mourinho also said that it is not his job to “get the best out of him”, but the responsibility is on Pogba to try his best for the team.
Hopefully, for his sake, the optimism, confidence and joy Pogba experienced at the World Cup will carry him through the tough winter months and Mourinho dropping him for Scott McTominay. It could be a long season for United.