Pogba back in business and winning Mourinho's trust
Paul Pogba's professional response to being dropped has impressed Jose Mourinho, who has underlined the need for Manchester United's stars to earn his trust.
Eyebrows were raised on Wednesday when Scott McTominay started the Champions League last-16 first leg at Sevilla instead of their club-record signing.
Pogba, though, came on early in the 0-0 draw due to an injury to Ander Herrera and impressed Mourinho with his performance amid speculation over the star midfielder's relationship with the United manager.
"You saw the game against Sevilla," the Portuguese said. "I think it's always more difficult to come off the bench than to start.
"A player when he is starting the game has a different kind of preparation and it's easier. To be on the bench and to come on without warming up, in the 15th minute and get up to the pace of the game is not easy, and I think he had a very positive game.
"I think he responded in a very professional way both times he was on the bench. He was on the bench against Huddersfield in the Premier League and he responded in a professional way, and he was on the bench in Sevilla and he did the same."
There does, though, appear little chance of the scrutiny surrounding Pogba's performances and happiness diminishing.
The France midfielder may well return to the starting line-up against Chelsea tomorrow after Herrera aggravated a muscle injury in Seville, with Mourinho expecting the midfielder to miss a "few weeks".
The Spain midfielder's absence may be keenly felt this weekend given his superb man-marking job on Eden Hazard when United won last season's Old Trafford encounter - an important role Mourinho had faith in Herrera to carry out.
Trust is key to the United boss and he pointed to up-and-coming McTominay as an example of what he demands from players.
"I don't give trust for free," Mourinho said. "I think it's the other way around. I don't think it's about the manager trusting the player, I think it is the player who must make the manager trust him. It's as simple as that.
"Sometimes it looks like we have to give everything to the players and the players give nothing back. I don't think that way. I think the confidence, the trust that I show towards Scott, he has earned it since day one.
"I know the qualities that are going to make him a really good player. I know what he is really good at, I know where he has to improve, and I think he's going to be a very good player."
Mourinho refrained from fuelling the war of words with Antonio Conte.
Having led the Blues to three Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a trio of League Cups across two stints at Stamford Bridge, the Portuguese is now focused on steering the Red Devils to glory.
Tomorrow will be the fifth time Mourinho has led United into battle with Chelsea and the first since an intense public exchange with counterpart Conte.
"I don't want to speak about it," Mourinho said. "Very good manager, fantastic team and that's what is important."
January was dominated by the tit-for-tat public argument between Mourinho and Conte.
The Portuguese's comments that he did not need to behave like "a clown" touched a nerve with the Chelsea boss, leading him to accuse the United boss of having senile dementia. Mourinho referred to a four-month suspension Conte served in relation to match-fixing, for which the Italian was later cleared of any wrongdoing. The Blues manager called the United boss "a little man" and the Portuguese returned fire by saying he treats Conte with "contempt".
Premier League fixtures (3pm unless stated): Leicester City v Stoke City (12.30), Bournemouth v Newcastle United, Brighton v Swansea City, Burnley v Southampton, Liverpool v West Ham , West Brom v Huddersfield Town, Watford v Everton (5.30).
Tomorrow: Crystal Palace v Tottenham (12), Manchester United v Chelsea (2.05).
Man United vs Chelsea
Old Trafford, Tomorrow, 2.05pm