MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Feb 9 – Jose Mourinho says his relationship with Paul Pogba remains rock solid despite having dropped his star midfielder, hitting back at pundits who questioned whether the Frenchman is being used in his best position.
Pogba, 24, has been under an intense spotlight since being substituted in Manchester United’s defeat at Tottenham and left out of the starting line-up for last weekend’s home win over Huddersfield.
United legend Ryan Giggs, in his column for Skysports.com, said Pogba was best deployed in a more attacking role while former United striker Wayne Rooney suggested he is a “box-to-box” midfielder.
“Paul had a very professional behaviour and this week was not different to what Paul is every week,” Mourinho told reporters on Friday.
“Paul is a good professional, Paul works well, Paul likes to train. I never had one single problem with him regarding his professionalism because he really is a very good trainer, one of the guys who likes to train, enjoys to train.”
The Portuguese manager said he had been confused by the speculation over Pogba’s best role in the side.
“For me Paul is a midfield player,” said Mourinho. “He’s not a left back, he’s not a striker, so when people say what’s his best position for Paul to play — Paul is a midfield player.
“It depends on the tactical system the team plays. You can play with two, with one, play with three. But he will always be a midfield player. It doesn’t matter the tactical system the team plays, Paul is a midfield player.
“And as a midfield player, it’s difficult to find a midfield player with more potential than Paul has because Paul has everything.”
– Shaw deal –
Mourinho also confirmed he wants to see full-back Luke Shaw handed a new long-term deal after the England international played his way back into the manager’s favour.
It is understood United have already activated a clause in Shaw’s contract to keep him at Old Trafford until the summer of 2019 but Mourinho sees him remaining with the club for much longer.
“I know Shaw since he arrived in the Premier League with Southampton and know his potential and quality,” he said.
“Could he work in my direction? The way I like my players to be not just on the pitch but during the training week? He made a big effort.
“He’s been free of minor injuries for a few months which sometimes stops the evolution and I’m really happy. The natural consequence of it is that he will have his contract and he will be a United player for years.”
United head to St James’s Park to take on Newcastle on Sunday, with Mourinho never having won a league game on Tyneside in six attempts.
“I don’t know why, I think it’s the only stadium in the Premier League where I have not won — also Huddersfield but I only played there once,” he said.
“I think it’s difficult, honestly, I’ve always felt beautiful matches but difficult. I like to go there and like the feeling of going to (former manager) Mr (Bobby) Robson’s home.”