LONDON (AFP) - Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba quickly deleted a controversial social media post of him smiling after manager Jose Mourinho was sacked by the club on Tuesday (Dec 18).
Mourinho was dismissed on Tuesday after United's worst start in 28 years left them trailing Premier League leaders Liverpool by 19 points.
The volatile Mourinho's exit was in part triggered by the breakdown of his relationship with France midfielder Pogba, who did not even make an appearance as a substitute for Sunday's dismal 3-1 defeat at Liverpool.
Pogba took to Instagram just moments after news of Mourinho's sacking broke, posting a picture of himself smiling and writing "caption this" next to it.
The 25-year-old's post was widely interpreted as celebrating Mourinho's departure and he was criticised by former United defender Gary Neville, who responded on Twitter by writing: "You do one as well!", suggesting he should leave the club as well.
Over 64,000 people had "liked" Pogba's cheeky message, but he deleted the post 10 minutes later amid claims it was actually part of a marketing campaign for Adidas.
The controversy was an appropriately rancorous end to the World Cup winner's stormy relationship with Mourinho.
Pogba joined United for a club record £89 million (S$150 million) just weeks after Mourinho was hired in 2016.
But the former Juventus player was repeatedly criticised by Mourinho during his two-and-a-half year reign.
After his inspired performances helped France win the World Cup in Russia in July, Mourinho opted not to praise Pogba, instead infuriating the star by publicly asking why he did not try as hard for United.
Pogba was stripped of the United vice-captaincy earlier this season.https://twitter.com/GNev2/status/1074983715544154113
The pair were captured having a frosty exchange on the training ground as Mourinho grew angry with his key midfielder's lethargic performances, dropping him on several occasions to spark talk he would be sold by the end of the season.
Former United midfielder Darren Fletcher knew Pogba during the Frenchman's first spell with the club as a youngster and he says his old team-mate "needs a kick up the backside".
Fletcher fears Mourinho's sacking could convince the flamboyant Pogba that he can now get away with whatever behaviour he feels like, unless the new manager clamps down quickly.
"I don't think he's conducted himself well recently and I think he needs a kick up the backside," Fletcher told the BBC.
"I think his post today, whether it was his team or whatever, it was totally out of order. That's a big concern for me.
"Everybody talked about, 'Who's going to go, is it going to be Pogba or Mourinho'. Now, if Pogba starts thinking that he's bigger than Mourinho, there's your next problem.
"Somebody needs to get control of Paul and say, 'Listen, this hasn't been a battle between Mourinho and Pogba and you've won, you've got to go and prove yourself now.'
"A manager's got to come in there and demand more from him, to lead this team forward."