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Paul Pogba not captain material: Why Mourinho risks gambling away Man Utd honour

COMMENT: Paul Pogba is not a Manchester United captain. Not on today's evidence. The silly dab. The self indulgent emojis. The sleeping through training sessions...

We could all see it coming. Saturday's 2-2 draw at Leicester City. Jose Mourinho's decision to hand Pogba the captain's armband in Antonio Valencia's absence set it all up. A lack of focus. Of hardnosed professionalism. And in the final minutes two points were blown. What else could the manager expect from this decision?

The zzz's of Pogba apart. We've had 48 hours of reports of United players brooding and infighting

There's been revelations of Romelu Lukaku being fed up with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Of Pogba sleeping through a training session. And the likes of Ashley Young and Michael Carrick upset with the liberties taken by the dressing room's younger clique. All this came on top of the humiliating Carabao Cup exit at Bristol City and Saturday's collapse at the KPS.

Both games decided by late goals. "Childish goals", as Mourinho described it. Conceded by a United team which should have put both games to bed long before then.

If the leaks after Ashton Gate were devised to sharpen his players' focus, Mourinho will have been left hugely disappointed. From Bristol City to Leicester, nothing changed. United dominated. They fought back from a goal down. And then, by failing to take advantage of their possession, blew it in the final moments of both games.

Post Bristol City, it all came in a rush. This was no coincidence. One daily had the Pogba story. Another had Lukaku fed-up with Ibrahimovic. And a third described how Mourinho was claiming his role in Lukaku finding his goalscoring form again after a dressing down.

It was a warning. A shot across the bows from management. A lack of focus was seeping in. In training. In games. Mourinho and his coaching staff could see it coming. Lukaku's moaning. Pogba's showboating. And the poor decision-making from those who should know better. It was threatening to derail their season - and still is.

Just minutes after seeing Harry Maguire bundle home the Foxes' equaliser, Mourinho's exasperation was palpable. The comments about his players - ie, Lukaku - missing "joke chances" and their "childish" efforts at both ends of the pitch were the headline grabbers.

But he also singled out Scott McTominay, who wasn't even involved on the day. The manager, after 48 hours of leaks about the attitude of his squad, making clear he was at his wit's end with their poor habits.

"Some players they have childish decisions and time helps them to have maturity and to decide better but some other players stay with childish decisions until the end of their career," he snapped.

"It depends on what is inside and the way they learn or they don't learn. For example Scott McTominay didn't play today and has still a lot to learn and he is a kid who last year was still playing with kids.

"But no childish decisions at all. Some other guys have childish decisions for many, many years."

Was he talking about his captain for the day? Mourinho would never say it publicly. But the question lingers: has Pogba shown any improvement in any aspect of his game since his Juventus days?

There's been no late winners. No match-saving tackles. No real inspiration in genuine blockbuster games. And at 24, the talk of what potentially Pogba can achieve is wearing thin.

Some in the press box at the KPS argue the captaincy was there to refocus Pogba. To get his mind and concentration back on track. And it's a solid assertion. But you just wonder if the Frenchman really appreciates what was granted him on Saturday.

He's no Steve Bruce, with his flattened schnoz. No Bryan Robson. No Roy Keane. Nor Nemanja Matic. Warriors. Leaders. Role models. Sure, Robbo liked a drink, but the idea he would allow himself to sleep through a training session...? Or Keane? The comparison between these men and Pogba borders on the embarrassing.

Just as it does with a lad of similar age up the road. There's no silly haircuts for Kevin De Bruyne. No dabs. No rehearsed jigs. He's a father, a husband and a footballer fulfilling his potential.

He has an ego, sure. De Bruyne is no shrinking violet. But it's a professional's ego. The only time you see emotion from De Bruyne is when it affects his team - whether that be Manchester City or Belgium.

At 19, 20, 21, De Bruyne was way, way behind Pogba at the same age. But his devotion to his craft now has him at the summit. No manager in the world would swap him for the Pogba.

Was this behind Mourinho's thinking on Saturday? The gravitas of the captain's armband to shake Pogba from his silly ways? If so, it was some role of the dice. You don't gamble with such an institution.

Those captains mentioned, you can see the thread that runs through them. Pogba, the 2017 version, has no business being mentioned in the same company. You hope for United's sake, the Frenchman recognises what Mourinho handed to him on Saturday.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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