MANCHESTER – Jose Mourinho has broken his silence on his relationship with French World Cup winner Paul Pogba and insists there has been no disagreement with Manchester United's record signing.
A summer of discontent has seen repeated reports that Pogba wishes to leave the club he joined from Juventus for £89.3 million two summers ago and move to Barcelona.
They were followed by claims this week that manager and player had exchanged angry words in a heated meeting after comments made by Pogba following last week's opening league fixture against Leicester.
Having starred, and scored, in United's 2-1 victory, just four days after returning to pre-season training following his World Cup adventures, Pogba claimed: “There are things I cannot say otherwise I will get fined.”
But Mourinho, preparing for Sunday's visit to Brighton, insists that argument never took place.
“The truth is we are together for two years and a couple of weeks and I've never been so happy with him as I am now, that's the truth. I cannot demand more from him,” Mourinho told reporters on Friday.
“He came here on a Monday, trained three days, I asked for his support for his contribution in an important match for us when the team had difficulties, he did it better and for more time than we could expect.
“When he says he did it for the fans and for the team, it is exactly what I want. It is exactly what I demand from my players.
“He's working well, playing well, he does it for the fans, he does for the team and that's what I want. To play for the team and I couldn't be happier than what I am.”
Pogba will remain captain for the Brighton game, although Mourinho explained that Antonio Valencia will reclaim the armband when he returns to action following a calf injury.
And the United manager refused to comment about Pogba's post-match outburst.
“I don't care,” said Mourinho. “I repeat: I want him to play well, I want him to play for that team, the fans and that is what it is. He's working extremely well here but I have to say in his defence, don't put him in a situation that people can think he's not a polite, educated guy - he is.
“He never had a fight with me. We never had a heated exchange of words, everything is respected, I have no problems at all.”
Mourinho also laughed off suggestions that Pogba would have faced a fine for talking his mind - pointing out that the only United player to have been fined on his watch was Anthony Martial, fined £180,000 for failing to return to their pre-season USA tour following the birth of his child.
“You have to ask Paul,” said Mourinho. “I'm here for two years and a couple of months and the only player that was fined was Anthony Martial, so it's not easy to be fined here.
“So you have to ask him. I'm not going to ask him. I want him to work the way he is doing and play the way he is doing and that's all that matters.”
After a strong showing in the World Cup and United's opening fixture, Pogba has set a standard which Mourinho claims he is confident the midfielder will maintain - although he will have no problem if not.
“I am very confident but if he doesn't that's football,” said Mourinho. “If his objective is to play for the team, for the fans, if this is the objective, he has the right for a bad match.
“Everybody has a bad day and has little ups and downs in the performance level.”
Mourinho will welcome Jesse Lingard back into his squad against Brighton, after returning from World Cup duty.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)