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Pogba CRISIS: At Brighton Man Utd (& Jose) were screaming out for the Russian version

COMMENT: Did you catch it? Jose Mourinho. He didn't miss. Another rant against his players. A line drawn in the sand. 'I'll still be here when you're long gone', he claimed...

...oh wait. Geez, sorry. No that wasn't the Manchester United manager yesterday. No, that blast came from another Premier League boss. Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham manager. It was he who railed against his players. Those unhappy not being played... Oh, you missed it? All six minutes of it? Well, fancy that...?

Yeah, you get the picture. The fallout from the defeat at Brighton will be spectacular. End of the world stuff. All the cliches. The quick sound-bites. The cartoonish reviews. It's all being spouted.

But take a deep breath. Watch the game again. Yes, Brighton outworked United. Outhustled. In desire. Determination. They were superior. And the win was well deserved. But not before Glenn Murray's cracking little flick. For that opening 25 minutes, it was how far United...? Andreas Pereira was commanding at No6. Fred was buzzing around the pitch. The passing was snappy, aggressive. And then the chances fell. Anthony Martial created one for himself. Juan Mata too. And Romelu Lukaku should've put United ahead - even having the luxury of playing in Mata. But he did neither and dragged his effort wide.

And from there, the floodgates opened. Moments after Lukaku's miss, Murray finished. Then Shane Duffy crashed his effort in. Two goals in two minutes and the visitors were shellshocked. It was time for leadership. The moment for the captain to take charge...

Going into Sunday, Mourinho did everything he could to stand by Paul Pogba. Despite his premeditated, "I'll be fined" claims the previous Friday, Mourinho went out of his way to support the midfielder. Pogba would retain the captaincy at the Amex. The media were hurting a "polite" and "educated" young man with their "lies" about the pair's relationship. They'd never had a "warm [heated] exchange", Pogba just wasn't that type of personality.

In other words, Mourinho was trying - again. Trying to create the atmosphere to get the best from his No6. He went out of his way to talk up Pogba, not only as a player, but a leader and personality. He even gave the Frenchman an 'out'. An excuse if he struggled on Sunday.

Asked if he expected Pogba to perform well at Brighton, the manager replied: “If he doesn't that's football. If his objective is to play for the team, for the fans, if this is the objective – he has the right of a bad match, everybody has a bad day and has little ups and downs in the performance level."

There was nothing more Mourinho could say or do. No matter Pogba's feelings. Or, more crucially, his agent Mino Raiola's. No fair minded observer could claim the manager hasn't done right by the midfielder.

And the problem is, all this goodwill is only going one-way. But it's not personal. It's not locker room politics. This isn't about Mourinho versus Pogba. It's about the player and if he's willing to take a step back for the good of his team.

At Brighton, United were screaming out for the Paul Pogba of France. Not the one who was jeered by his own countrymen in two World Cup warm-up friendlies. Nor the one whom ex-France internationals were calling to be dropped during the group phase. No, we're talking about the one of France's final four games of the tournament. The player who played the percentages. Who never indulged in fancy tricks. Who played it simple when needed. The Pogba who put team ahead of self.

That's the frustrating thing. Those gunning for Pogba can't say he's incapable. That he can't do it at a Turf Moor or Vicarage Road. Because he's shown he can. He did it in Russia. And that's what his teammates were screaming out for at Brighton yesterday. Put the flashy stuff away. Build and hold the platform for the likes of Martial and Fred to play. Step back and play the percentages. Just as Pogba did for Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe in Russia.

But his teammates didn't get any of that. Nor did his manager. Instead, he played right into Chris Hughton's hands. The Brighton manager has worked him out. Just jump on him. No matter where he is. He'll cough up the ball - either in possession or with a loose pass. Run off him. Pogba won't track back - he won't even run to get into position. That's not his game. Well, not when he's in a Red shirt at Brighton.

For this column, Mourinho needs to make the call. If nothing changes. If Pogba's best way of leading the team is to be more extravagant. Then for games like Sunday, he needs to be withdrawn. At Brighton, he wasn't just a passenger, but a liability. He was near enough the same in the win against Leicester City.

The media backlash will be ferocious, but Mourinho has done all he can for Pogba. But without the willingness to draw on what made him successful in Russia, Pogba's hurting United and his teammates.

The Paul Pogba of Manchester United just can't do it at a Turf Moor or Amex.


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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