Jose Mourinho has worked a bit of media cunning and strongly indicated Paul Pogba will be fit to start for Manchester United against Sevilla on Wednesday evening after attempting to show the watching world all is fine between the two of them.
United face Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
And Mourinho has hinted that Pogba – who missed Saturday’s FA Cup win at Huddersfield through illness – is fit to start in Spain after taking a full part in training on the eve of the game.
The last fortnight has seen multiple stories in the media hinting at a strained relationship between both Pogba and Mourinho – but a clever stunt from the manager attempted to dissipate the rumours and illustrate the player’s happiness at Manchester United.
Mourinho allowed the press to see their open training session ahead of the game, and explaining his actions, the United boss said: “Well, I open the training session today and I open in a period where normally we don’t open.
“We normally do it in the warming up and in the first simple drills of the training session, and this time we did it for quite a long time and in the last period, so we could see the players in a competitive situation.
“When a player is in that competitive situation, it is because the players are normally ready and without problems.
“So, you could see that in training some people that didn’t play against Huddersfield with problems, like Pogba, (Antonio) Valencia, (Marcus) Rashford, (Ander) Herrera.
“So, I think in an objective way you could look at it.”
Scrutiny over Pogba’s form and happiness has been compounded by sickness during a difficult period for the France international.
Mourinho last week admitted Pogba’s form had dropped but angrily dismissed “lies” suggesting a fractured relationship with the midfielder, who would have started Saturday’s FA Cup win at Huddersfield but for illness.
The 24-year-old has recovered in time for Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg at Sevilla, where suggestions that this was the kind of stage where the club-record signing should prove his worth did not sit well.
“I don’t think it’s fair to speak about the responsibilities of a player,” Mourinho said.
“I don’t even like the fact that the player that cost X millions doesn’t have the same responsibility as the player that cost three times X.
“I think the responsibility is for everyone, so I don’t like that kind of approach. I understand for you (the media), but not for me.
“When I decide a team to play, I don’t look to the age, I don’t look to the salary, I don’t look to the transfer fee, because I think that’s not also fair.”