LONDON - Paul Pogba is set to start for Manchester United on Tuesday night but will sit out this weekend’s derby after Jose Mourinho decided not to appeal against his three-match ban.
Mourinho felt that arguing over the red card Pogba received for stamping on Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin was a fruitless exercise so United head towards Sunday’s titanic clash with Manchester City without their talisman.
First, CSKA Moscow must be negotiated at Old Trafford as United bid to reach the Champions League last 16 for the first time in four seasons. Only a highly unlikely seven-goal defeat would see United fail, and they need only a point to top Group A.
Sergio Romero will start in goal to give David de Gea a rest and although Mourinho did promise changes, United will not leave much to chance, as shown by Pogba’s inclusion.
Centre back Phil Jones trained on Monday but was ruled out by Mourinho along with Eric Bailly, Marouane Fellaini, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Nemanja Matic.
"Paul’s a bit tired because it was a huge match last weekend and just two days to recover for CSKA," Mourinho said. "He’s very happy to play and try to keep his momentum. Since he was back from injury he’s been phenomenal."
United will be without the French midfielder for Premier League games against Bournemouth and West Brom, as well as City, over the next fortnight. The FA are not looking into the midfielder’s alleged sarcastic applause following his sending-off by Andre Marriner at Arsenal, however.
That is not the only controversy to have involved Pogba during the past few days. Some City stars were left perplexed by the 24-year-old’s interview with the BBC’s Football Focus in which he seemed to hope rivals suffered injuries.
"I don’t care — he can say whatever he wants," Kevin De Bruyne said. "We just have to be focused on whatever we’re doing."
When the irony of Pogba now missing the derby was put to De Bruyne, he said: "I don’t believe in that s***. I’m a very straight- forward guy. If someone believes it is karma then OK."
Pep Guardiola’s City side should be faced with Ibrahimovic, who also trained at Carrington on Monday, when they arrive from across town. He is sitting out the Moscow clash - as he did the Arsenal match - to guard against fatigue.
"He needs sometimes very hard work on the area that supports the knee that had the problem," Mourinho explained. "When the hard work starts and fatigue comes, for that period of time he cannot play for these days.
"The decision was to do that after Watford. He is in a cycle of work, in the gym and on the pitch. He is out again but back to normal after CSKA."
CSKA could represent a huge opportunity for Luke Shaw, who Mourinho has named in his matchday squad.
The left back has been out in the cold, playing just 48 minutes of football this season and without a start since April.
"He’s working to have an opportunity and sooner or later that opportunity will arrive because he deserves that opportunity. Whether he starts or be on the bench I cannot answer," Mourinho said.