Jose Mourinho doesn’t believe it will be possible to replicate Paul Pogba’s World Cup form at Manchester United next season.
The Frenchman, following a mixed second campaign under Mourinho, was one of the best players at the finals.
His performance in the World Cup final especially, during which he scored the winner and bossed the midfield, sent out a bold message to his critics all over the world.
Speaking to ESPN, Mourinho noted that it would be impossible for Pogba to perform in the same way at Man United.
“I don’t think it’s about us getting the best out of him, it’s about him giving the best he has to give,” he said. “I think the World Cup is the perfect habitat for a player like him to give [their] best.”
“Why? Because it’s closed for a month, where he can only think about football. Where he’s with his team on the training camp, completely isolated from the external world, where they focus just on football, where the dimensions of the game can only motivate.
“During a season, you can have a big match then a smaller match, then one even smaller, then you can lose your focus, you can lose your concentration, then comes a big match again.
“In the World Cup, the direction of the emotion, of the responsibility, of the big decisions is always growing up.
“You are in the group phase, you go to the last 16, to the quarterfinals, to the semifinals, to the finals. This feeds the motivation. This feeds the concentration of a player.
“So I think it was the perfect environment for him.”
The content of what Mourinho is saying here isn’t exactly wrong. After all, the World Cup, by its very nature, brings out the maximum of any player who takes part. A knockout game against Argentina will always be more motivating than Burnley at home. That’s just a fact.
What baffles and disappoints from this, however, is Mourinho’s apparent refusal to acknowledge the possibility that he can, as a coach, help Pogba to improve. There were basic things Didier Deschamps did at the finals which allowed for the Frenchman to get the ball in better positions. He would not have succeeded at this World Cup if the tactics and attitude hadn’t been right.
But Mourinho, as we have seen before, apparently feels inclined to wash his hands with the idea of creating circumstances that would help Pogba perform better at United. Any other manager, surely, would be working rigorously with him on a daily basis in a kind of symbiotic relationship of collective improvement. That’s management, right?
For the Portuguese, however, emphasis is on Pogba exhibiting the right attitude, week-in-week-out, rather than anything to do with tactics or actual coaching. Extend this managerial approach across the whole team and no wonder supporters have precious little confidence heading into the new campaign.