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Stick it! Why Pogba should never be Mourinho's Man Utd captain

COMMENT: Friday night at Old Trafford. Paul Pogba and the armband. That was not the stuff of a Manchester United captain.

On the pitch, Pogba did everything his manager asked of him - and more. Jose Mourinho was effusive in his praise before and after victory over Leicester City.

Before kickoff, there was no snub. No opportunity to speculate about the relationship between the pair. Instead, Mourinho announced Pogba would be his captain for the evening. He'd only been in the country for three days, but had trained the house down. "A good example in the dressing room", Mourinho said of his No6.

Then in the post-match, Mourinho was even more lavish in his praise. The manager admitting Pogba went beyond the call.

"Pogba was a monster," he declared. "We thought maximum 60 minutes but he managed the 80."

The early spotkick was one thing. But Mourinho went out of his way to talk up the sacrifice Pogba had made to get this result over the line. For all the accusations of Mourinho running down his players. Of the shock-horror sacrilege of publicly criticising them. Here was the Portuguese doing all he could to talk up his midfielder. To let the media and fans know the efforts Pogba had made to help United to an opening night win.

And that should've been it. A new season. A clean slate. We crack on. Together. But for Pogba, that wasn't enough. And just as he did in the opening exchanges of Friday's game, for the last meaningful contribution from anyone on the night, Pogba made it all about him.

You want your striker to score. To get off the mark as soon as he can. And two minutes into a new season, United and Alexis Sanchez was given that chance. The Chilean had even created the penalty himself. He needed a goal. His first six months at United had not gone to plan. But a new season. A clean slate. And a spotkick inside five minutes of a new season. What an opportunity...

But no. It was Pogba's moment. The captain wrestled the ball away from Alexis. There was no World Cup winner's medal to reinforce Alexis' belief. There was not even a World Cup. But Pogba wanted his moment. Alexis and the need for the team to have their striker find his scoring touch, well that could take a backseat. But this had nothing on what was planned nearly two hours after the final whistle.

With post-match interviews done. With his teammates making their way home. There was no obligation for the captain to speak to the media. But he did. It was prepared. Rehearsed. A monologue Pogba had been planning for some days.

From a simple query of 'so are you happy, Paul?', Pogba launched into his woe his me soliloquy. A clean slate? Sod that. Live and let live? No chance. With a World Cup medal now in his trophy cabinet, nothing's going to hold back this ego.

He began by rattling off his thank-yous to teammates and fans. He name-checked Mourinho's new assistant coaches Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna. He talked of "loving the club" and being "honoured" to wear the captain's armband.

And then he was asked, 'so are you happy, Paul?', to which he replied, “There are things I cannot say or I will be fined..."

In that moment, Pogba knew exactly what he was doing. This was about him. Again. And how he was treated by his manager last season.

“When you are comfortable, when people trust you, you are good in the head and it's easier," he insisted.

For those United fans that had been hoping Mourinho's gesture was the beginning of a new partnership. Reminiscent of Big Ron and Robbo. Sir Alex and Eric. Or Fergie and Keano. Their No6 wiped that out well before midnight.

Trust. Management. Pogba threw it all back at his manager in that final briefing. This wasn't the actions of a United captain. Of a leader. This was calculated. Indulgent. Infantile. In his mind, he was responding from a position of strength. He had his goal. The three points. And that World Cup winner's medal. How could anyone doubt him? How could anyone bench him as Mourinho had done last season? And so he made his point. And despite everything Mourinho had said over the course of the day, he hung his manager out to dry.

These weren't words or motivations of a leader. Of a man willing to put aside differences for the greater good. This was someone holding a grudge. And handed the platform by the very target of his ire to air his grievances.

On Friday, Mourinho tried. The olive branch was offered. And for whatever reason, Pogba refused to accept. This wasn't the actions of Manchester United captain.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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