London – Jose Mourinho says Paul Pogba should not be judged by his world-record £89m transfer fee after another fruitless performance during Manchester United’s Europa League defeat by Feyenoord on Thursday evening.
Pogba, who re-joined United from Juventus last month, was anonymous once again for Mourinho’s men as they succumbed to a 1-0 loss in Rotterdam just five days after the damaging derby setback against Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday.
United travel to Watford on Sunday knowing talk of a crisis will snowball if they fail to overcome Walter Materazzi’s side but Mourinho, who did his level best not to discuss Pogba’s fortunes, insists he is not concerned by the midfielder’s stuttering form.
The 53-year-old said: “The world record player is always a question that will be open until somebody else breaks the record. I think there are clubs who paid £20m, £30m, £40m and that is a bigger deal than what Man United have paid for Paul.
“Because you make a relation between the club’s revenue and the money. I just want Paul to forget that and play his football.”
13 Premier League clubs broke their transfer records this summer as the English game bathed in £5.13bn of television rights money. Less decorated clubs such as Crystal Palace (Christian Benteke, £32m), Everton (Yannick Bolasie, £28m) and West Ham United (Andre Ayew, £20.5m) parted with sums previously unavailable to them.
But Mourinho is not prepared to accept that Pogba’s early season strife is down to the weight of expectation and instead highlighted a number of mitigating circumstances which should be considered instead.
The two-time Chelsea manager added: “He had no pre-season and played in the Euro 2016 final. It is normal after the first game (against Southampton) – which he played well – for him to have a little decrease but I have a lot of trust in him.”
Pogba was utilised in a No. 10 role in the Netherlands, just behind teenage striker Marcus Rashford, but neither were able to work a breakthrough against a rigid Feyenoord rear-guard at De Kuip.
Mourinho was at pains to stress that the 23-year-old’s recent difficulties don’t lie in his position. Many in Italy argue that Pogba enjoyed the best season of his career last year at Juventus in helping the Turin outfit lift both the Serie A title and another Coppa Italia.
“The form will come naturally and will come with the team,” the United boss continued. “He can play where he was playing in the Premier League or where he did today. It is not a problem with his position. It depends on the situation.
“We were playing with Wayne Rooney in a No. 10 and today we played with Morgan Schneiderlin in front of the back four.”
Former United midfielder Paul Scholes, who won 11 Premier League titles in the North West between 1998 and 2013, disagrees with Mourinho’s assessment, however, and branded the tactical set-up “all over the place” in his role as a pundit for BT Sport.
“It’s been a little bit of a struggle for him so far,” Scholes said. “Tonight, again, it wasn’t his best performance. I think it will come. It’s still very early days.
“I don’t really know what position he’s playing at the minute. Has he got a position? Has he been told to play where he wants? He seems to be a little all over the place at times. I think he’s trying to do too much on the ball.
“He’s trying to beat three or four players. He’s running with the ball. He should keep it simple for now.
“That’s not the player Manchester United bought. They didn’t buy a Lionel Messi to go and beat five players and stick it in the top corner all the time. They bought a powerful, strong midfield player who can take the ball. He’s got skill, he can pass it forward, he can run.”