Can the Pogba-Mourinho Rift Be Repaired?

This week’s frosty training ground clash between Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho is the latest in a long history of fallings out between the two. Mourinho also this week publicly stated that Pogba would not captain United again. But can the relationship between Manchester United’s star and manager be repaired?

Mourinho’s History

Jose Mourinho has a history of falling out with his star players, most notably at Real Madrid. During his final season with Madrid, Mourinho had high profile falling outs with several players, including Iker Casillas and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Mourinho publicly criticised club legend Casillas on numerous occasions, before dropping him mid-way through his final season. The decision to drop Casillas appeared multi-factorial, with Mourinho frequently lauding the abilities of his replacement Diego Lopez. However, many felt that Mourinho disliked Casillas’ power at Madrid. Casillas had the utmost respect of the board and a degree of influence, which clashed with Mourinho’s need for total control.

Upon Mourinho’s departure, defender Pepe spoke out about his relief at the managerial change. He told Spanish press that he felt Mourinho had lost Madrid’s reputation due to his feud with Pep Guardiola, which had led to the side being “hated”. Mourinho and Pepe had held a strong relationship throughout his tenure, which soured when Pepe stuck up for Iker Casillas after the keeper came in for more public criticism. Many considered Pepe turning against his manager to be a final straw.

Sergio Ramos has also spoken out about his pleasure at seeing Mourinho move on. Ramos was often the other victim of Mourinho’s criticism. In 2017 he described Mourinho as “not getting” the Real Madrid way.

Mourinho’s most recent tenure at Chelsea also ended in fractured relationships with key players. During his final month in charge, Eden Hazard was seen to shun Mourinho’s handshake after being substituted. Five days later in Mourinho’s final game, Hazard withdrew after half an hour with an injury, against his manager’s wishes.

Too Much Damage Done?

The latest break down in relationship between Pogba and Mourinho is simply the latest in a long-running saga.

After playing a pivotal role in France’s World Cup win, Pogba was widely praised. However, in a press conference, Mourinho appeared to take some of the credit for the midfielder’s success. He later clarified that he, in fact, meant that Pogba was at his best when focusing on football, urging him to bring this level of commitment into the new season. Pogba was reportedly unimpressed with the comments. Shortly afterwards, Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola tried to engineer a move to Barcelona, something firmly resisted by United.

In an attempt to repair the damage, Mourinho made Pogba captain for the season opener. Afterwards, Pogba hinted at his unhappiness, telling reporters “if you are not happy, you cannot give your best”. He also alluded to wanting to speak out further, but being unable to for risk of a club fine.

Meanwhile, this week’s drama was started by Pogba criticising Mourinho’s tactics during the draw against Wolves. Pogba stated the need to play to United’s traditions of attacking, post-game. This did not sit well with Mourinho, who was furious with Pogba for his role in the equaliser.

This week’s events have left the relationship at its most turbulent point to date. Neither seems ready to hold out an olive branch and how the situation is resolved remains to be seen.

Who Will Survive?

Manchester United do not have a decision to make yet. Pogba cannot leave until January at the earliest, whilst Mourinho has only recently signed a contract extension. This gives Chief Executive Ed Woodward time to see how the situation develops.

Much may depend on how Pogba performs over the next few months. If Pogba plays at a consistently high level, he may make it impossible to move him on. Another factor in Pogba’s favour is his popularity within the changing room. The group is reportedly very much split, with several players taking Pogba’s side.

The similarities to Mourinho’s fall out with Iker Casillas are clear. History would suggest Mourinho is not able to repair the damage done. Whether he has learnt anything from his troubles in Madrid may be what keeps his job. Mourinho needs to find a way to bring his team back together or else may see the door long before his 2020 contract ends. Winning at West Ham on Saturday would be a good way to start this process.

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