Dressing Room Torn Apart:”Pogba finds allies as Mourinho has his lieutenants as Manchester United’s dressing room gets sourly divided by their bitter feud”
The civil war engulfing Manchester United has caused a split in the dressing room at Old Trafford and there are worries that it is more than just a case of Paul Pogba vs Jose Mourinho
Mourinho had stripped Pogba of the club’s vice-captaincy in front of his teammates on Tuesday, the Portuguese having taken exception to the World Cup winner’s criticism of his tactics in the weekend draw with Wolves.
That was the final straw for Mourinho in that regard, after the United boss and his staff had been displeased by Pogba’s part in Wolves’ equaliser – losing the ball in midfield to Ruben Neves – and playing loud music on the top deck of the team bus ahead of the game.
Mourinho has subsequently taken Pogba to task in the dressing room post-game, but the breakdown of their relationship was further exacerbated on Wednesday at training.
Less than 24 hours after Mourinho had publicly denied there had been any falling out between the pair, the United boss wasted no time in becoming embroiled in a fresh spat with the £89million star, in footage picked up by Sky Sports’ cameras.
It was no coincidence that it occurred during the 15 minutes per week that United are contractually obliged to allow them to film.
Mourinho had taken exception to an Instagram story posted by Pogba during the Carabao Cup loss to Derby County and quickly called out Pogba as he arrived on the training field, quizzing press officer John Allen: “When did Paul post that Instagram?”
Now a relationship that has appeared to be little more than a marriage of convenience has reached breaking point, with Pogba wanting the exit and Mourinho wanting a January sale.
United’s board however believe that they will receive more money next summer, with £200million their desired amount.
The questions whether they can go that long, with the fall-out threatening to turn the atmosphere in the entire dressing room toxic and Mourinho’s man-management skills set to come in for their biggest ever test amid growing concerns that other first-team players will side with Pogba against the manager.
Unsurprisingly Anthony Martial is very much in the camp of his international teammate, having been at loggerheads with Mourinho for a large part of 2018.
Martial wanted to be sold after Alexis Sanchez’s arrival in January and conflict with Mourinho once more reared its head on the pre-season of the club’s US tour, with Martial going AWOL to be at the birth of his baby son in Paris; he was subsequently fined by the club and has made just one start in the Premier League this term.
Mourinho is also at odds with Eric Bailly, the Ivory Coast international who is no longer first choice. Bailly has fallen down the pecking order since pulling out of the fixture with West Brom in April; that defeat ultimately handed Manchester City the league title.
Luke Shaw has been back in favour with his manager this season, but his relationship with Mourinho is best described as fragile at the best of times.
Shaw was in the Instagram clip posted by Pogba on Tuesday night, as was Andreas Pereira, back at the club after a loan spell at Valencia but who is back on the periphery at Old Trafford.
Pereira has grown increasingly close to Pogba and the two can be seen laughing and joking in the social media post; his attitude has been called into question recently also.
Fred, the £52million summer signing from Shakhtar Donetsk, was on the top level of the bus with Pogba ahead of the Wolves fixture and there are also reportedly concerns over his relationship with his fellow midfielder.
Mourinho does still have backing from a number of senior players at the club, most notably Ashley Young and Nemanja Matic, both in their thirties and who demand the best from their teammates as they look to land further trophies in the latter part of their careers.
Club captain Antonio Valencia. Marouane Fellaini – for whom Mourinho went to bat over a new contract – and Alexis Sanchez are three more experienced campaigners determined to repay Mourinho for his faith in them and are part of a larger group for whom the decision to strip Pogba of the captaincy wasn’t ‘unpopular’.
The most interesting case of all however is Romelu Lukaku.
The Belgian striker joined United in a £75million deal in 2017 and spent time with Pogba while on holiday as his move from Everton was being completed.
Their relationship is no longer seen to be as strong as it once was off the field, with Lukaku having sought and been handed extra responsibility by Mourinho, labelling himself earlier this year as his on-field ‘sergeant’.
Now United’s No.9 is very much a man in the middle – as are many in the dressing room.
Mourinho told Pogba in front of the dressing room on Tuesday that he did not possess the qualities required of a leader, in a clear attempt to stamp his authority.
Now his biggest battle is to prove to his charges that he is the man to get behind, rather than the wantaway superstar.
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