Mourinho was left more than impressed with the performance of his French maestro in the friendly loss to Barcelona
IT was high praise indeed from Jose Mourinho for Paul Pogba.
Asked what the difference was between Real Madrid and Barcelona, and Manchester United, Mourinho reeled off the star names from the two Spanish giants and said you simply could not compare.
There was one exception, however, and that was Pogba.
Mourinho said after United’s 1-0 defeat to Barcelona in Washington: “Messi and Neymar, there is only one Messi and one Neymar, and Suarez, Iniesta, Pique, Ronaldo, Bale, Modric, Toni Kroos, there is only one, so they can only be playing for one club not two. We can’t have them.
“You can work hard tactically to improve your players but there are players that are special and there is nothing you can do.
“But when the matches are real matches, you try to compensate for the difference in quality with tactical organisation — and with that you can win.
“A team is on a certain day better than its sum of parts but the parts are amazing, their relation with the ball is amazing.
“The relation with the ball is still the most important thing and as an opponent on the bench like I am it is beautiful to see their relation with the ball.
“But one of my players today — Paul Pogba — showed the level and he belongs to that level.”
Undoubtedly Pogba, 24, has been one of the highlights of United’s US tour.
After an up and down first season back with that £89milllion world record price tag on his shoulders he is ready to shine.
His performance in the defeat to Barcelona on Wednesday showed that.
There is no doubt Pogba thrives more in a 4-3-3 that Mourinho played in an exciting first half at FedEx field.
He played on the right of Michael Carrick behind the front three but enjoyed a freedom he rarely had as part of a two in front of the back four where he often played last season.
But in this formation and alongside a player like Carrick or Ander Herrera in the middle he feels free to roam and that is when he does his most damage.
Even in a 3-5-2 he seems more suited. The player himself is emerging as a real leader.
While Carrick is the captain, Pogba is undoubtedly an energetic driving force both on and off the pitch.
Mourinho said: “Paul ended the season by being an important player also in the dressing room.
“He starts this season from day one very comfortable with that role and I think the fact that Michael is this kind of silent leader, a leader by example, leader by class, but is a silent leader, Paul can be like the leader of the young people.”
This last week Pogba spoke passionately about how he wants to get his team back to where they were when he left.
He had spent some of his formative years with United between 2009 and 2012 but returned to a club in a very different state.
Pogba said: “It was a big challenge for me. I knew that I wouldn’t be playing in the Champions League but I said to myself that I want Manchester United to be the Manchester United that I knew back in the day.
“I think we are on the way. We won three trophies last season, we are back in the Champions League and the team is improving a lot again. So I hope that we are going to continue in that way, and improve and improve.”
With Pogba in the form he was in here in the States and looking forward to a big second season back at Old Trafford there is little doubt they are going to do that.
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