In Brief

Paul Pogba: Is criticism down to 'envy' or is he 'flailing'?

Mourinho launches defence of his £90m man after his 'masterclass in indifference' against Chelsea

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has launched an "astonishing" defence of Paul Pogba after the world-record signing came in for more criticism following the FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Chelsea. 

He claims that "envy" was at the root of attacks on the player, despite the fact that most pundits agree that the midfielder has made little impact since his £90m return to Old Trafford in the summer.

The 24-year-old Frenchman was singled out again after another quiet performance against Chelsea, prompting Mourinho to suggest that his critics have an axe to grind.

It was an "impassioned defence" of his player, says the Daily Telegraph, although the Daily Mail calls his comments "astonishing".

Adopting an unusually philosophical tone, the United boss said: "I feel that the world is losing values and we all know that, and envy is coming into certain levels so that I am scared, especially for the next generation, if things go in this direction.

"It is not Paul's fault that he gets ten times the money some players did in the past. It is not his fault that some pundits are in real trouble with their lives and need every coin to survive and Paul is a multi-millionaire."

The Mail wonders who Mourinho's barbs are aimed at. "BBC pundits Frank Lampard, Alan Shearer and Phil Neville didn't speak about Pogba after United's 1-0 defeat against Chelsea on Monday night," it says. "However, it was on last week's Monday Night Football that Lampard gave one of the most detailed critiques of Pogba's performances this season."

The Manchester United midfielder has also come in for criticism from a former Liverpool defender, who called him a "liability" after a terrible performance against Liverpool in January. Ex-United defender Rio Ferdinand has also been critical.

And it's not only former players who have attacked Pogba in recent weeks. Barney Ronay of The Guardian described the £90m-man as "clangingly inept" after the EFL Cup final against Southampton.

James Ducker of the Daily Telegraph called Pogba's performance against Chelsea on Monday "a masterclass in indifference" in stark contrast to that of his international teammate N'Golo Kante.

"Pogba's quality should prevail in time at Old Trafford but he is flailing at the moment," says Ducker. "In Pogba's defence, he has looked like a player running on empty for a few weeks now and in need of the rest Jose Mourinho seems averse to giving him." 

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