Gauging Paul Pogba’s level of happiness at Manchester United is becoming more futile than predicting when Dr. Dre will drop the Detox album.
Thankfully for the legendary music producer, he doesn’t have to deal with a boss in Jose Mourinho hindering his creativity and nagging him for every lack of bass or thump on a track. Because that is the situation that has caused the shocking unpredictability of Pogba’s current level of enjoyment, or lack thereof, with being the star man of the Red Devils.
It seemed a World Cup title and key reason in France’s return to soccer’s summit would be the own cleansing moment for relations between Jose Mourinho, Pogba and Pogba’s camp. Despite the desperate urging of his PR client to slam the Portuguese manager, Pogba declined chastising Mourinho in a pre-World Cup interview with ESPN The Magazine. The title in Russia for the charismatic midfielder had to ensure the end of the frosty treatment Mourinho gave him throughout the second half of United’s 2017-18 season. Instead, the 55-year-old tactician displayed another moment where he is sorely lacking common sense nowadays by rekindling unnecessary tension between him & Pogba.
Before the start of United’s preseason tour in July, Mourinho had every chance to praise Pogba without taking additional digs at him. Instead, he chose to get the shovel – insinuating that his player was distracted too easy during a Premier League season, and that the World Cup didn’t allow for any distractions hindering his play.
Those latest quotes from his club manager smacked Pogba harder in the face than the celebratory champagne in the Moscow Luzhniki Stadium locker room after the World Cup final. Those words certainly blindsided Pogba, who coming off a career-high moment and beginning his well-deserved vacation, surely didn’t anticipate any negativity coming his way from his club manager during this of all periods.
The second the elegant two-way force heard Mourinho’s new jabs was the start of all the rumors of him possibly wanting to leave United for Barcelona, or even a return to Juventus. Mind you, this is after United brought Pogba from Juve after spending the most money ever on a player two summers ago. Pogba also developed at Manchester United and is true representative of the storied club through and through, moreso than Mourinho will ever be.
The club did not have Adidas and the Old Trafford field be used for a global commercial for him to just sell him off two summers later. Pogba returned to United to be one of its storied players, not one of its greatest academy players who starred elsewhere (see: Gerard Pique). Despite the loathing he and his camp has towards Mourinho, Pogba loves Manchester United. And Manchester United fans are desperate for him to shine, as his star personality matches the club’s global stature.
It’s why, despite the new drama caused by Mourinho and Barcelona sniffing around for a transfer for Pogba that was an unfathomable thought just a month ago, the United #6 made himself available for their Premier League opener vs Leicester last Friday when he could have cited more rest required from becoming a world champion. Seeing that it was from a positive move to the future and not dwelling on ill feelings of the past from Pogba, Mourinho gave him the captain’s armband. It resulted in Pogba taking authority from Alexis Sanchez and scoring the early penalty that helped propel United to a 2-1 opening match win.
But just when it seemed both would turn their attention to building a new relationship of harmony, it was Pogba‘s time to place some eye-raising quotes. With a rare available moment in the postgame media zone after the Leicester win, Pogba unleashed some of his bottled-up annoyance. “There are things I cannot say, otherwise I will get fined,” he said. The talismanic figure than wrote on his Twitter page afterwards, “I’ll always give my best to the fans and my teammates no matter what’s going on.”
It’s another new chapter in a book full of plot twists between how Pogba wants to be at United for a long time, but yells in dismay at dealing with Mourinho for another season. It’s getting to the point that you would know Detox’s release date before seeing how the Pogba-Mourinho relationship will be come next week.
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Andrew Jones is a sports, political and culture reporter whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Intercept, Ebony Magazine, World Soccer Talk, MSNBC, the Grio and the Nation. He has also made appearances on Al Jazeera English and Huffington Post TV. And, no, he doesn’t think Tom Brady is the GOAT