French World Cup winner Marcel Desailly believes his compatriot Paul Pogba faces a huge battle to turn around his career under Jose Mourinho’s watch at Manchester United.
Pogba’s two goals against Manchester City paved the way for an improbable United triumph at the Etihad Stadium earlier this month but he was hauled off by Mourinho just 58 minutes into Sunday’s miserable 1-0 defeat against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford.
Doubts over Pogba’s future at Old Trafford have been aired over the course of 2018 and Desailly has told Yahoo Sport that the midfielder United signed for £89m in the summer of 2016 may struggle to perform at his best in Mourinho’s set-up.
“I believe that Pogba can be a top-class player but at the moment he does not have the consistency you need to play for a big club like United,” states Desailly, who was speaking at an Enterprise Rent-A-Car event.
“Look at his performance against Manchester City in the second half and that is what we expect from him every week. He was brilliant with his two goals and that has to give him confidence – but what happens next?
“The key for me is where you play Pogba. He is not a playmaker. He is not a holding midfielder and yet we have seen United and Mourinho try him in both of those positions this season. He will not be successful there.
“He can play in a midfield three on the right-hand side but does he defend enough for this manager? When you have the ball, you know he is there and wanting to be involved, but when you don’t have the ball, where does he go?
“Mourinho has tried everything to fit him into his team, but he has not yet found the best position. He needs to find it quickly.”
Desailly believes Mourinho’s frustrations with Pogba’s performances have spilled over in recent weeks, as he suggests his star man’s celebrity status off the field may not sit well with a manager who likes to have complete focus from his players.
Pogba is not a playmaker or a holding midfielder yet we have seen Mourinho try him in both of those positions. He will not be successful there.
“Mourinho has been expecting better performances from Pogba, that is clear,” he added. “He has expressed some concerns about the player, but he will now want to see a positive reaction from him.
“This is a manager who likes to have control of his players but he has to accept that some players are not good when they are restricted. Some have to be allowed to express their personality and all managers have to remember that in the end, the player is stronger than you.
“Mourinho discovered when he was sacked by Chelsea. Players are very strong and he needs to make a step towards finding a way to get the best out of Pogba.
“Maybe he need to adapt his ways for Pogba to fit into his team, but the idea that he wants to kill passion in creative players is not true. The manager does not play boring football. He plays winning football and the people that say he wants to kill players who like to express themselves is wrong. Pogba still has to prove he can play for him.”
Pogba’s active social media channels and his new TV show in France looking at his lifetstyle have attracted ridicule, but Desailly suggests his eagerness to promote his brand off the field is not the reason for his indifferent form in United colours.
“Let’s stop complaining about the amount of time Pogba is on Twitter or Instagram because it doesn’t affect him when he gets onto the field and plays for Manchester United or for France,” adds Desailly. “When he is playing well, we look at his social media and the little jokes he does and everyone smiles with him.
“When he is playing bad, everyone says the reason is because he is not focused and too obsessed with his image or his Instagram messages. They say look at him around the swimming pool or rolling around in the sand….this is terrible. It’s not terrible. This is how football works now.”
Marcel Desailly is working with UEFA Europa League partner Enterprise Rent-A-Car on their Backseat Pundit competition. To find out how you can ride to a game with a football legend and enjoy special rates on car hire across Europe, visit www.backseatpundit.co.uk