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‘He wasn’t ready’: Former teammate says Mourinho ruined star’s Man United ‘dream’

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Former Juventus team-mate Alessandro Matri has laid the blame at Jose Mourinho’s door after Paul Pogba saw his ‘dream’ of a glorious return to Premier League giants Manchester United run aground.

With hindsight, perhaps a coach as acerbic and as fork-tongued as Jose Mourinho was not quite the best mentor for a footballer who, despite his obvious potential on the pitch, still needed an arm around the shoulder and a bit of helpful guidance off it.

Forget the transfer fee, forget what we know now, Paul Pogba was only 23 years of age when he re-joined Manchester United for a then-world record fee of £89 million.

But rather than take a young and precocious Pogba under his wing, Mourinho’s seemingly relenting criticism lead to divisions in the dressing room and turned large sections of the fanbase against a player who – for all the (understandable) criticisms of his output – was never really afforded the correct structure and environment within which to justify that eye-watering price-tag.

Manchester United v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Group H

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho fell out at Man United

“For me, he was the first great ‘athlete’ player. He looked like a basketball player. He combined elevation and power with technique, which he was rarely seen in that period,” Matri tells DAZN, drawing comparisons with Mourinho’s treatment of Roma skipper Lorenzo Pellegrini this season.

“For me, Mourinho’s presence at Manchester United (meant Pogba) suffered a lot. Mourinho approached him a bit like he did with Pellegrini. He made (Pogba) feel important and then he went into conflict (with him).”

It is no coincidence that, like back in 2019 when Man United sacked Mourinho and brought in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Pellegrini has enjoyed a Pogba-like resurgence under another club legend appointed to act as a morale-boosting, season-saving interim head coach.

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Pellegrini already has eight goals or assists under Daniele de Rossi since late-January.

“I spoke to Pogba. Returning to Manchester United and winning back his people was his dream,” Matri adds.

“He wasn’t ready to be questioned by such an important coach. He may appear to be a player with a great personality but, in reality, he is very playful. I’m not talking about football personality: as long as he plays football he dominates.

“But, if he is questioned, he suffers because he is a sensitive boy. Is not certain that a player, even if he is a champion, can stand competition with an important coach like Mourinho.”

Pogba now facing four-year ban

Pogba was let go by Man United in 2022 when his contract expired. Injuries have restricted the World Cup winner to just eight Serie A appearances since returning to Juventus, however, and it remains to be seen if he ever represents the Bianconeri again after being handed a lengthy ban for a doping violation (BBC Sport).

According to reports, Man United are now scouting a 21-year-old midfielder who likens his game to that of Pogba in his younger days; Royal Antwerp’s Mandela Keita.

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