No more excuses for Pogba & Alexis with Mourinho gone

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The manager paid the price for not getting the best out of his star duo, but they must now deliver for their new boss or Mourinho will be proven right

There was no emotional parting message. No fond farewell. No display of respect. Just a smirk and a "Caption this!"

The soap opera that has been the relationship between Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba in 2018 has ended with the Portuguese’s sacking and the midfielder expressing no hint of regret for an episode which has done nothing for Manchester United.

But with the manager out of the door and replaced until the season’s end by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer there are now no excuses for Pogba, or for team-mate Alexis Sanchez.

The pair were bank-busting arrivals under two different banners: Pogba the most expensive player ever; Sanchez the highest-paid in English history. But the return on United’s investment has been minimal.

Mourinho has paid the price for his inability to get the best out of the duo. Pogba was too erratic and didn’t provide the energy expected of him often enough in United’s engine room, while Sanchez has barely found the net and too often ended up roaming all over the field in his bid to find a niche in this side.

While the Chilean will remain unavailable for the time being due to his hamstring injury, Pogba ought to be thrust straight back into the side when Solskjaer picks his first United XI at Cardiff on Saturday.

Having worked with Pogba when running United’s reserve side between 2008 and 2010, the Norwegian believes he knows exactly how to get the best out of the World Cup winner.

“I would [build the team around him], absolutely no doubt. I had him with David Gray and Etzaz Hussain,” Solskjaer said of Pogba last summer.

“That just shows how far the kid has come. Paul is a fantastic kid so hopefully we can build the team around him and keep him.”

Paul Pogba Instagram

Alexis Sanchez Jose Mourinho Manchester United 2018-19

But if Pogba is to get that luxury from Solskjaer, then he has no more excuses not to perform.

Whenever he hasn’t hit the mark before now, there has been the caveat that playing in a Mourinho team doesn’t quite suit his sense of freedom in the opposition half. What will be the qualifier if he cannot do it under a manager more willing to let him off the leash?

And the same goes for Sanchez once he comes back into contention for a spot. Through the spring he was often thrown a bone when under-performing, with people understandably putting some of his poor form down to the need to acclimatise to a new team and a new role midway through the season.

But in 2018-19 so far his displays have been no better, and have arguably been far worse than they were in his first few months as a Red Devil. Some onlookers still mockingly suggest that his best performance at Old Trafford so far was his piano solo when being unveiled during the January transfer window.

Like Pogba, Sanchez has to take responsibility for his own game. He is a world-class forward on his day and it ought to be a matter of personal pride that he busts a gut for the cause whenever he is handed the famous No.7 shirt.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer quote on Paul Pogba

Sure, there are questions as to whether he is best playing off the left, the right, or through the middle, but his level should not be dipping as low as it has in 2018 regardless of where he is starting.

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Solskjaer is more likely than Mourinho to be open-minded to suggestions when it comes to how much his shape is dictated by the preferences of his star players, but if the likes of Pogba and Sanchez can’t improve under a new manager, then they will frankly only be proving Mourinho right for dropping them and calling them out in public in the first place.

There was clearly no love lost between the former boss and his star players, but the verdict on who was right and who was wrong will only be delivered once Pogba and Sanchez have shown whether they have it in them to deliver the best versions of themselves for their new manager.

Now that there is no more Jose, there are no more excuses for two of the most heralded signings in the club’s recent history.