Never been happier with Pogba: Mourinho

United boss opens up on his reported rift with Frenchman but adds Valencia is his captain

LONDON • Jose Mourinho has broken his silence on his relationship with French World Cup winner Paul Pogba and insisted there has been no fallout with Manchester United's record signing.

The 25-year-old, who joined United in 2016 for £89.3 million (S$156 million), has been linked with a big-money move to Spanish LaLiga champions Barcelona following a series of apparent rifts with United's Portuguese manager.

Pogba scored in United's 2-1 opening-day Premier League win over Leicester last week, but appeared to fuel speculation about his future at the club afterwards by saying he would be fined if he said the wrong thing.

But Mourinho, preparing for today's visit to Brighton, insists that all is well with the midfielder.

"The truth is, we've been together for two years and a couple of weeks and I've never been so happy with him as I'm now," he said. "That's the truth. I cannot demand more from him. He's working well, playing well... I want him to play for the team, which he's doing, and, I repeat, I couldn't be happier than what I am.

"He's very polite, he's very educated, he never had a fight with me. We never had a heated exchange of words. Everything is respected. I have no problems at all."

Mourinho also laughed off Pogba's claims that he would have faced a fine for speaking his mind - pointing out that the only United player to have been punished on his watch was Anthony Martial, fined £180,000 for failing to return to their pre-season United States tour following the birth of his child.

EVERYTHING'S A-OK

He's very polite, he's very educated, he never had a fight with me. We never had a heated exchange of words. Everything is respected. I have no problems at all.

JOSE MOURINHO, Manchester United manager, insisting that everything is hunky-dory between him and Paul Pogba.

"You have to ask Paul," said Mourinho. "I'm here for two years and a couple of months and the only player that was fined was Anthony Martial, so it's not easy to be fined here. So you have to ask him.

"I want him to work the way he is doing and play the way he is doing and that's all that matters."

Pogba will captain United again today in the absence of regular skipper Antonio Valencia.

But Mourinho explained that Valencia will reclaim the armband when he returns to action following a calf injury, even though he is not the pundits' favourite.

United legend Paul Scholes told the BBC on Friday that the Frenchman should have been made captain from the moment he arrived in 2016 and that might have prompted more consistency.

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Valencia returned to training last week, along with midfielders Nemanja Matic and Jesse Lingard and the trio are working towards full match fitness.

United were beaten 1-0 in their previous visit to the Amex Stadium late last season, a result that ensured Brighton held on to their top-flight status.

"They know how to play and they've kept the same team, they bought a few new players," Mourinho added.

"The style is the same and the fact that they lost the first match (against Watford), they're working for a reaction, working to improve their game, so a difficult match for us, but we are confident."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 19, 2018, with the headline 'Never been happier with Pogba: Mourinho'. Print Edition | Subscribe