Football: Mourinho leaps to Pogba's defence

Paul Pogba enjoying a light moment at training yesterday. Manchester United take on Rostov at Old Trafford in a Europa League second leg clash today and Jose Mourinho has said the world's most expensive player is unaffected by criticism of his perfor
Paul Pogba enjoying a light moment at training yesterday. Manchester United take on Rostov at Old Trafford in a Europa League second leg clash today and Jose Mourinho has said the world's most expensive player is unaffected by criticism of his performance in the FA Cup loss to Chelsea.PHOTO: REUTERS

United boss says highest-paid player is being flayed by critics who are consumed by envy

LONDON • Jose Mourinho has sprung to the defence of Paul Pogba, after the midfielder was criticised for an anonymous performance in Manchester United's FA Cup defeat by Chelsea on Monday.

The contribution of the world's most expensive player was also compared unfavourably with that of Chelsea's N'Golo Kante, a relative snip at £32 million (S$55.2 million), but Mourinho claimed pundits were simply envious of the money modern players are earning.

"I feel that the world is losing values and I am scared about the level of envy coming in," the United manager said. "It is not Paul's fault that he gets 10 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, while Paul is a multi-millionaire. I think Paul deserves respect, I think his family deserve respect.

"This is a kid that came to Manchester as a teenager, who fought for his career here and was not afraid to move to another country and look for better conditions. Paul reached the top and nobody gave him anything.

"I am really worried about the way things are going with previous generations. Envy is everywhere."

Pogba had come under fire from former England internationals Jamie Carragher and Frank Lampard in the Chelsea game, with the former branding him a liability and the latter suggesting Pogba was still searching for his best position.

That pair retired recently and both enjoyed well-remunerated careers. The exact target of Mourinho's allegations about envy, therefore, remain obscure, but according to the United manager his player does not care anyway.

"I am very happy with Paul and the club is very happy with Paul," Mourinho said of United's £89 million summer signing.

"And the best thing is that because of his personality he doesn't give an a** to what people say about him."

Mourinho's comments came on the eve of United's Europa League clash with a depleted Rostov today, when he hopes that his players will shrug off the effects of the stormy FA Cup loss to Chelsea.

United have the upper hand against Rostov, having netted an away goal in a 1-1 draw in last week's last-16 first leg in Russia, but their heavy schedule means freshness remains a concern.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's suspension and injuries to Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial meant Marcus Rashford had to play as a lone striker at Chelsea despite struggling with illness.

But, while it is unclear whether Rooney or Martial will feature today, Ibrahimovic and Herrera will both be at Mourinho's disposal as their suspensions only apply to domestic matches.

Centre-back Eric Bailly is also available again after missing the first leg through suspension.

Rostov captain Aleksandr Katskan and Belarussian winger Timofei Kalachev are both suspended after being booked in the first leg, while full-back Vladimir Granat suffered a fractured collarbone.

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MANCHESTER UNITED V ROSTOV

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2017, with the headline 'Mourinho leaps to Pogba's defence'. Print Edition | Subscribe