LONDON • The big question after Manchester United's shock exit from the League Cup on Tuesday night is - where does the Paul Pogba saga go from here?
Despite United manager Jose Mourinho telling reporters after his side's third-round defeat - going out 8-7 on penalties to Derby at home following a 2-2 draw - that there had been "no problem" with Pogba after confirming the Frenchman will never skipper the Red Devils again, the Portuguese was not fooling anyone.
According to The Times of London, Mourinho informed Pogba of his decision to relieve him of his duties in front of his teammates on Tuesday, claiming that the midfielder "doesn't represent what a captain is and United is bigger than anyone".
Pundits had a field day over Pogba's demotion, with Sky Sports' Jamie Redknapp suggesting that the pair could both leave Old Trafford after the breakdown of their working relationship.
"There's been an almighty fallout. Going forward, I don't see how you patch that up. I don't think they will both be here next year," he told Sky.
"Is he (Mourinho) the right fit for United? The modern-day manager now has to be friends with his players, you can't fall out with them.
"You can sack Mourinho, but you cannot sack Pogba. What are you going to do with him now? I've been in dressing rooms where the manager has lost the players and all it does then is get cliques, that's how I see this United dressing room."
Aside from the revelation that Pogba had been stripped of his leadership responsibility, Mourinho said post-match that he knew United "were going to be in trouble with (Phil) Jones and Eric (Bailly)" once it came down to spot kicks.
PLAYER POWER RULES
What are they going to do? Are they going to say you're on the transfer list? He'd probably quite like that. So, it's something (United) have to put up with.
ANDY GRAY, beIN Sports pundit, in a warning about the balance of power in football today.
Jones' shoot-out effort was saved by goalkeeper Scott Carson. United, who took the lead through Juan Mata, were pegged back by goals from Harry Wilson and Jack Marriott and would have lost in regulation time - had it not been for Marouane Fellaini's stoppage-time equaliser.
Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown believes that Mourinho's tendency to single out players does nothing for team morale.
"He (Mourinho) needs to start seeing the good in what they do," he told the BBC. "Is he pulling up the handbrake? Jose seems to be at war with his players."
And beIN Sports pundit Andy Gray had bad news for Mourinho, saying that such was the influence of player power in the modern game that Pogba was now the one calling the shots at United.
"I don't think it helps when their (stand-in) captain and most expensive player is saying in public the coach has got the tactics (in the 1-1 league draw with Wolves) wrong," he told the Mirror.
1 IKER CASILLAS (REAL MADRID)
Jose Mourinho disliked the former Real goalkeeper for a number of reasons: for calling then-Barcelona captain Xavi after yet another El Clasico descended into a brawl; for disagreeing with his tactics; and even for having a journalist as a girlfriend.
"Mourinho saw him as a grass, a mole, a traitor and an egoist," Diego Torres wrote in his biography, The Special One. Casillas eventually joined Porto.
2 DAVID LUIZ (CHELSEA)
Luiz helped Chelsea win the Champions League in 2012, but became a peripheral figure when Mourinho returned for a second stint in 2013, and lost his place to John Terry and Gary Cahill. Luiz was sold to Paris Saint-Germain in 2014 and Mourinho said the Brazilian defender "would not be missed".
3 JUAN MATA (CHELSEA AND MAN UNITED)
Mata and Mourinho never saw eye-to-eye at Chelsea, with the Spaniard frozen out of the team after the Chelsea boss deemed him unsuitable in the role he wanted to use him in.
Mata appeared to get back in his boss' good books at United. But there was the 2016 Community Shield where Mourinho brought the midfielder on - before subbing him off again in the same half.
"I needed to take off the smallest player because we were expecting a lot of long balls," Mourinho said.
"What are they going to do? Are they going to say you're on the transfer list? He'd probably quite like that. So, it's something (United) have to put up with."
Mourinho reportedly took Pogba's comments on Saturday, in which he said that United must "attack, attack, attack" at Old Trafford, as the Frenchman undermining his authority.
The rift between the two has been evident for some time, with Pogba not reacting well to being dropped towards the end of last season.
Although Pogba is a World Cup winner, Mourinho does not feel that the 25-year-old has lived up to his billing as United's record signing at £89 million (S$160 million).
The 55-year-old is also said to be unhappy about Mino Raiola's influence on Pogba as his agent has been getting into the player's ear to convince him that he deserves better treatment and more respect.
Barcelona were heavily linked with Pogba in the summer and, according to multiple British media reports, the midfielder and Raiola are hoping to revive his move to the LaLiga champions in the January transfer window.
Terms were reportedly agreed early last month and, although the move did not materialise then due to United's reluctance to sell, a £200 million asking price has been mooted by the Mirror this time round.
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON