Punters are considering the implications of reported unrest at Manchester United with Paul Pogba said to be regretting his return to the club in a world-record move from Juventus.
The UK tabloids are scenting trouble behind the scenes after French sports newspaper L’Equipe claimed the 24-year-old was going through a ‘dark period’ amid ‘difficult relations’ with manager Jose Mourinho.
The Red Devils’ title challenge came off the rails before Christmas, but recent defeats to Tottenham and Newcastle United have put Mourinho’s men under pressure as they at least attempt to salvage a top four finish. They currently sit second in the table, four points ahead of Spurs in fifth.
The United boss substituted Pogba with his side 2-0 down at Wembley and benched the Frenchman for the following match at home to Huddersfield.
He was recalled to the starting line-up for the trip to St James’ Park but arguably put in his worst performance of the season, leading to fresh criticism from former Red Devils midfielders Roy Keane and Paul Ince.
Keane, the outspoken ITV pundit and Republic of Ireland assistant manager, was adamant it shouldn’t matter where Pogba plays in midfield and that the player “needs to do better himself and focus on what football is really about.”
Ince believes the arrival of Alexis Sanchez last month makes the Chilean the key man at Old Trafford and has “taken the shine” off Pogba.
“Pre-Sanchez, he was the main man,” he told the Mirror.
“He was the kingpin and the one everyone was talking about.
“Since Sanchez joined the club, Pogba’s confidence and mood seems to have gone in the opposite direction to earlier in the season.”
Mourinho has so far been unable to find the right balance when Sanchez and Pogba have started together – with United losing both times – but his side have won both matches to nil when Sanchez has started without the Frenchman behind him.
The Portuguese coach must resolve the problem soon with United’s hopes of securing more silverware this term hanging in the balance ahead of a tricky rematch with the Terriers in the FA Cup and a looming test from resurgent Sevilla in the Champions League.