Rio Ferdinand has jumped to the defence of Manchester United superstar Paul Pogba in his public feud with Graeme Souness, insisting the Liverpool legend has unfairly targeted his old team-mate.
Pogba has been restricted to just eight first-team appearances for United this season due to a persistent ankle injury.
The French midfielder underwent surgery on the issue in January and is expected to be back in contention for a place in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's line up when the 2019-20 campaign resumes after the coronavirus-enforced break.
Souness has singled Pogba out for criticism throughout his second spell at Old Trafford, questioning his attitude and commitment to United's cause on a number of occasions.
When asked to weigh in on Souness' comments during a sit-down for United's official podcast, Pogba admitted that he had never heard of the former Liverpool defender, who responded by saying: "The oldest thing in football comes to mind – put your medals on the table."
Ferdinand says Pogba's World Cup winners' medal is proof of his credentials on the pitch, and cannot understand why he has come under so much scrutiny while taking in an extended spell on the sidelines.
The ex-United centre-back said on The Beautiful Game Podcast : "He hasn’t even played football this year! I don’t know how his name is in people’s mouths, he hasn’t even played football.
"I don’t understand it, like why are you chatting about Paul Pogba? He hasn’t played really this season so he shouldn’t be in the conversation.
"I don’t understand. Yeah, he’s a great player, huge profile, I understand all that. But he’s being judged or made the villain in this season which he’s played really no part in, so I don’t get it.
"Obviously Graeme Souness made a statement about putting your medals on the table. Boy, listen, my man’s got a World Cup winners’ medal. Like, it’s hard to chat to someone when they’ve got a World Cup.
"He won four Scudetti in Italy or something. He’s won stuff. Listen, Graeme Souness was a great player and he’s won a lot of stuff.
"Listen, my generation, and even worse for Graeme Souness and all the guys in that generation, they’ve got to understand that these guys don’t look at them sometimes. They don’t know who they are.
"For Paul Pogba to say he doesn’t know who he is, or wouldn’t know him as a footballer, I believe that. It’s not disrespectful, he doesn’t know him!
"As great a player as Souness was – he was a top player, one of the best, if you’re talking about the best British midfielders we’ve ever produced, he’s in the conversation – but Paul Pogba doesn’t know him.
"Simple as that. And that’s just a difference of generations. So I don’t think it’s disrespectful.
"Listen, if I was Paul Pogba I would have said the same thing, but I would have been saying it from a disrespectful standpoint, because I’d be saying, 'You’ve been disrespecting me this whole time and I’ve not kicked a ball! Why are you talking about me for?'"
Pogba has been heavily linked with a move away from Old Trafford in recent months, amid reported interest from Real Madrid and former employers Juventus.
The France international's agent Mino Raiola added fuel to the speculation by saying he hopes to "lead a great footballer" to Santiago Bernabeu in March, and Ferdinand has called for Pogba to come out and clarify his future once and for all.
He added: "Listen, I’m honest about Paul, and I love Paul because I’ve known him since he was a young kid and I still chat to him now, but the only problem I have with Paul is he should chat instead of his agent chatting. If he’d done that there’d be more clarity on the whole situation.
"But Paul is his own man, he’s going to deal with it his own way and I respect that. So that’s the only thing I’d say. Would Paul have wanted to do more in a Man United shirt in terms of performances?
"I’m sure he would. Listen this kid is an absolute professional, desperate to be the best player in the world, he wants to be that.
"Don’t ever get that twisted. But these guys are talking about him like he’s some kind of fairground player."