Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has insisted that there is no confusion between himself and Paul Pogba over the midfielder’s best role in the team.
Pogba’s performance in the recent 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley was widely criticised, and Mourinho responded by dropping the France international to the bench for the win over Huddersfield later that week.
United legend Ryan Giggs was amongst those to suggest Mourinho utilise Pogba in a different way, but the Portuguese manager believes that many observers have begun to confuse themselves in the nuances of different midfield roles.
“Paul had a very professional behaviour. The week was not different to what Paul is every week. He works well, he’s a good professional. He likes to train. I’ve never had a single problem with him. He likes to train.
“I had a few laughs over the past week because I heard and watched, read a few things, and I’m not English but I think I understand English enough when you want to say box to box,” Mourinho told reporters.
“But with some comments from some important people in football, I got a little confused. For me box to box means box to box. You have to be good in this box and have to be good in that box.
“It means you have to defend well in this box, the physical condition and desire and stamina to go until the other box. In the other box you have to be good at scoring, creating, heading and so on.
“And when your team loses the ball you have to go to the other box. Now I’m confused when some people say box to box has to play free of defensive duties. That’s not a box to box.
“That’s a box in the box and stay in that box. Don’t move from that box! I think this country produced a lot of box to box players. I had the pleasure to coach some of them, but nowadays with some pundits, some agents, some family members, the concept of box to box is changing a little bit.
“It looks like we are going to a different concept. Box to box are not my words. I heard it for the first time in 2004 when I arrived. For me, with my Portuguese and trying to translate to the English I just think midfield players.
“For me Paul is a midfield player. He’s not a left back, he’s not a striker. When people ask his best position: he’s a midfield player. It depends on the tactical system but he will always be a midfielder.
“Then with so many opinions, and we are in a world of opinions, people can get confused. There is no confusion between me and Paul. It’s difficult to play a midfielder with more potential than Paul.”
Pogba is expected to return to United’s starting lineup when they face Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Sunday.