Mourinho vs. Pogba: training exchange adds to Man Utd’s woes
United are knocked out of the League Cup by Championship side Derby County
Carabao Cup third round Manchester United 2 Derby County 2 (Derby win 8-7 on penalties)
Manchester United were dumped out of the Carabao Cup on a day when the disunity within the club was laid bare.
Before the shock defeat against Derby County at Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho declared that Paul Pogba wouldn’t captain the side again because of his attitude, The Times reports. This was a surprising rebuke for the French World Cup winner and a glimpse of the discord within the dressing room.
“I made the decision for him not to be second captain but there is no fallout, no problem,” said Mourinho. “I am the manager I can make these decisions.”
No love lost
Various UK media outlets report that Mourinho and Pogba had a “frosty exchange” at United’s Carrington training ground this morning.
Following the draw against Wolves on Saturday, Pogba was quoted saying that United should “attack, attack, attack” when playing at home at Old Trafford.
Pogba was rested for last night’s League Cup loss against Derby. His boss then confirmed he would no longer be the club’s vice-captain.
Sky Sports reporter James Cooper, who was at Carrington, says the Mourinho-Pogba saga will play out “like a pantomime”. Cooper said: “One thing is clear now, and this is the one thing that has changed in the last 24 hours – the whole situation is now very much out in the open.”
Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph’s Sam Wallace believes United will “soon be forced to choose a side” in the power battle between Mourinho and Pogba.
Wallace writes: “The division of power is very finely balanced. It could go either way and one suspects it will not be long until we hear from Mino Raiola, the agent of Pogba who has a habit of writing his own part in these disputes. Mourinho will have known sanctioning Pogba was a risky move, but eventually judged it more of a risk to ignore.”
Off the pace
For how much longer will Mourinho be making the decisions at Manchester United? The humiliating exit at the hands of sixth-placed Championship side Derby, coming just three days after a drab 1-1 draw at home to Wolves in the Premier League, has emphasised the mediocrity that runs through Old Trafford – and has done since the moment the Portuguese boss arrived in the summer of 2016.
The club has splashed the cash but lie seventh in the league table, one spot behind Arsenal who are outperforming their rivals this season despite the upheaval following the departure of Arsene Wenger after 22 years at the helm.
It was Alex Ferguson’s retirement five and a half years ago that ushered in United’s problems. Mourinho was the third manager tasked with trying to restore the club’s reputation.
So far he’s following the same unsuccessful route as David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. Defeat to Derby will send him one step closer to the Old Trafford exit.
The Unhappy One
Against Derby Mourinho made nine changes to the team held by Wolves last weekend – with Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard the only survivors – and in his programme notes the Portuguese manager expressed his unhappiness with some members of his squad.
If that declaration dismayed the United faithful their concerns were soon banished when Juan Mata gave the hosts the lead after only three minutes.
Derby – managed by one of Mourinho’s ex-charges at Chelsea, Frank Lampard – levelled on the hour mark with a stunning free-kick from Harry Wilson. Minutes later United keeper Sergio Romero, making his first appearance of the season, was sent off for handball.
United’s evening went from bad to worse when Jack Marriott headed the visitors into the lead five minutes from time. Only a goal from substitute Marouane Fellaini in the fifth minute of stoppage time saved United’s blushes – temporarily.
Extra-time produced no further goals so it went to penalties. The crucial moment came when, after 15 successful penalties, Derby keeper Rams goalkeeper Scott Carson saved Phil Jones’s spot kick to hand his side a famous victory.
For Mourinho it was an infamous defeat and one that will give the United board further food for thought.
Earlier in the day the club’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, gave his manager the dreaded vote of confidence. Quoted by The Daily Telegraph, Woodward said: “Everyone at the club is working tirelessly to add to Manchester United’s 66 and Jose’s 25 trophies. That is what our passionate fans and our history demands.”
Twenty five trophies, maybe, but football is about the present not the past, and it’s increasingly looking like Mourinho is history at Manchester United.
What the managers said
Jose Mourinho: “At half-time I repeated the words I said in the last match. Their dressing room is a dressing room with belief and we need to go and kill the game, which we didn’t. The Carabao Cup is not a worry anymore – we don’t play until next season. It is the minor competition we are involved in. We want to win and we are disappointed.”
Frank Lampard: “I’m a bit shell-shocked, in a good way. It was a special performance from the team… to come to Old Trafford, to go against Jose Mourinho and these world-class players, to have the confidence to play the way they played, that feeling was immense.”