Mourinho vs Pogba: How a ‘special’ relationship unravelled at Man Utd

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An outspoken Portuguese coach and a flamboyant French midfielder appeared to be a match made in heaven, but they are now in danger of drifting apart

When Manchester United invested a then world record £89 million ($113m) transfer fee in Paul Pogba back in 2016, life in the Old Trafford garden was rosy.

Jose Mourinho had just taken the reins and the Portuguese was all sweetness and light as he welcomed a familiar face back to the Theatre of Dreams.

Fast forward two years and a match seemingly made in heaven is in danger of heading for divorce.

How did we get to this point? Goal takes a look at the timeline of a rocky relationship.

  1. August 2016 – Record-breaking arrival

    Mourinho: “Paul is one of the best players in the world and will be a key part of the United team I want to build here for the future. He is young and will continue to improve; he has the chance to be at the heart of this club for the next decade and beyond.”

    Pogba: “It has always been a club with a special place in my heart and I am really looking forward to working with Jose Mourinho. This is the right club for me to achieve everything I hope to in the game.”

  2. February 2017 – Form under scrutiny

    Mourinho: “I am pretty sure that next summer some players with only half his quality probably will cost the same money or more so I am waiting for that moment to release him from the scrutiny. I think in a couple of years you will realise he was cheap but I have to admit that not many clubs have this vision of anticipation of what can happen in the near future.”

  3. March 2017 – One of the best around

    Mourinho: “Manchester United is very powerful, it doesn't need to be in the Champions League to attract the best players. Zlatan could still be in Paris. Mkhitaryan could be at Borussia Dortmund. Pogba could be at Juventus. We were able to attract the players because they know that Manchester United sooner or later will get there.”

  4. May 2017 – Worth every penny

    Mourinho: “I think the problem is the tag, the price tag on his back. I hope next summer he's not anymore the highest transfer fee and then the pressure goes to somebody else. If his transfer fee was half of it, everybody would say: 'What a buy, he's playing more than good.' But everybody expects performances according to that huge transfer fee and that brings pressure and that brings sometimes unfair analysis.”

  5. June 2017 – A special bond

    Pogba: “He is The Special One because he wins. Sometimes he does some extreme things. Against Chelsea, he changed our tactical formation just before the game. We had never trained it before but it worked out well. That was special. He won three trophies in his first year, that's special as well. He deserves his name. Personally, he welcomed me, we had a talk and I had a good feeling from the first moment on. He trusted and defended me. That's all a player needs.”

  6. August 2017 – Living the dream

    Pogba: “I came here to win the Premier League and to challenge myself as well. Winning the Premier League is what matters. My dream was to play for this club and, when I finished [in 2012], I always felt like I had missed something at Manchester United because I wasn't a first XI player. Now I'm back and happy to be back.”

  7. November 2017 – A big miss when injured

    Mourinho: “I think any other manager would be speaking about Pogba every day. 'Oh, I don't have Pogba. Oh, when will I have Pogba? Oh, 10 matches without Pogba. Oh, all the Champions League group phase without Pogba. Oh, all the big matches, against Liverpool, against Chelsea, against Spurs without Pogba. Oh.' I don't speak about Pogba one single time. It's only when you ask me about his situation.”

    United boss after a goal-scoring return against Newcastle: “[Pogba was] different class. [It was] what we had in the beginning of the season with Paul and [Nemanja] Matic, growing up together and being like the engine of the team.”

  8. January 2018 – The main man

    Mourinho: “I think he [Pogba] is happy with the way the team is playing and he's happy because the team is changing the profile and the profile is going more in his direction.”

  9. February 2018 – Bench duty

    Mourinho: “I change a few players and the intention was not to punish anyone. To punish anyone I also need someone to punish me because we are a team and, when we win we win together, we lose together. Paul is a fantastic player, no doubt for me one of the most talented midfield players in the world but to sit on the bench one day is not the end of the world.”

    The Portuguese said when asked when Pogba would return from illness after missing an FA Cup tie with Huddersfield: “I don't know and, honestly, I don't care. I focus just on the game since the moment I knew Paul cannot play. I will think about Paul after the match, not now.”

  10. March 2018 – Tired of the questions

    Mourinho: “Ask him [about his form]. Ask him when you get a chance what he thinks about it.”

  11. April 2018 – Derby heroics & relationship

    Mourinho: “I’ll tell you what I told him after the match – I don’t expect you to be man of the match every week, I don’t expect you to score two goals every week. But I expect you to be consistent. I expect Paul – and I think that’s the challenge he has to put to himself – to keep a certain stability and not to have the good match and the so-so match and the bad match.”

    Pogba: "The relationship with Mourinho is good, very good. He's the coach, I'm the player. He does the coaching, I do the playing. I'm here and very happy. Being on the bench is something that didn't happen in the past, it's not something I'm used to, but everyone has to go through this.”

    Mourinho: “If that [the constant questions] happened 10 or 15 years back, it would bother me a lot, because in that time it wouldn't have lies in journalism. Actually, I don't even know who's a journalist and who isn't anymore, because nowadays anyone can be a journalist. In fact, me and Paul have never had a personal issue.”

  12. May 2018 – Exit talk emerges

    Mourinho: “I can give the guarantee that I don't want him to leave. I can give you the guarantee that the club doesn't want to sell him and I can give you the guarantee that we don't have any approach from him, from his agent or from any club.”

    Pogba: “People want to hear about the manager and the player. You see some images of me talking with the coach. We can disagree but he is still the manager and I am the player. Sometimes I see things he doesn’t and sometimes he sees things I can’t. But it doesn’t mean anything is bad.”

  13. June 2018 – Admission of issues

    Pogba: “It was an experience. There were some small issues with Mourinho, but they were nothing in the end. Being a substitute, that sort of thing, it helps you to grow. I have to accept it.”

  14. July 2018 – World Cup winner but more expected

    Mourinho: “I don't think it's about us getting the best out of him, it's about him giving the best he has to give. I think the World Cup is the perfect habitat for a player like him to give their best.”

  15. August 2018 – Staying quiet

    Pogba: “There are things I can say and there are things that I cannot say, otherwise I will get fined. When people trust you and have confidence then you are good in your own head, it's going to be easier.”