Belfast Telegraph

Pogba has all the qualities to be next skipper after Wayne, says Mourinho

By Mike Whalley

Rio Olympics-bound Ciara Mageean will head an international line-up of athletes competing in this Saturday's third International Athletics meeting at the Mary Peters Tracway should be clear for a victory for Bath's Dave King who was fourth in the European Junior.

Jose Mourinho has declared that Paul Pogba has the attributes required to be a Manchester United captain.

The France midfielder's recent performances have done enough to convince United's manager that he can be Wayne Rooney's long-term replacement in the role.

Rooney's future at Old Trafford continues to be a subject for speculation, despite the fact that he has a contract until 2019, and declared in November that he was determined to see it out.

Mourinho has made clear repeatedly that he sees the England captain, who has started just eight of United's 20 Premier League matches this season, as a key part of his set-up.

The form of Pogba, though, suggests that a natural successor is emerging to step into the role when the time comes for Rooney to move aside.

He had a slow start after rejoining the club from Juventus for a world-record £89m fee in August, but has flourished since being pushed forward into an attacking midfield role.

Asked if Pogba had the qualities to be a Manchester United captain, Mourinho said: "I think he has. I think he has the charisma. The ambition. The mentality. He is a good professional. Being so young and with so many ingredients, I think he can."

The midfielder, whose return to Old Trafford came four years after leaving to join Juventus for £1.5m, says his recent upturn in form has happened because Mourinho is letting him be "free" on the pitch.

He was initially used in a deep midfield role by the United manager, but was then moved further forward when Michael Carrick was recalled to the side in early November.

"He told me not to listen to anybody, just be focused on the pitch and enjoy yourself," Pogba said. "That is all I am doing.

"He talked to me. He made me very comfortable and confident. He said: 'You know how to play. Do what you want'. He let me be free on the pitch.

"He told me just to enjoy myself. That is it. That is all I need to hear from the manager."

Mourinho is wary of putting too much pressure on Pogba - insisting that the result of tomorrow's game against Liverpool will be decided by all of his players, not just one.

He said: "It is not fair to say a player has to be dominant. He is playing amazingly well, yes. No doubts about it. But the team is also playing well.

"I am not expecting the team to play really badly and for one player to have all the weight on his shoulders. Not Paul, not anyone.

"I expect the team to play well and Paul to be at the level he is playing now regularly."

Mourinho, though, has no such qualms about declaring United the biggest club in England, even though they are sixth in the Premier League as they prepare to face Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson, during his time in charge, once declared that United v Liverpool was "the game of the season in English football".

But asked if he felt that was true, Mourinho said: "I don't know. I know that Manchester United are the biggest club in this country.

"I know, you know, everybody knows. I am sorry. It is easy to know.

"I can feel the rivalry is big and for sure, it is a big match.

"Around the world, people will look to this match with special eyes, that's for sure," he added.

Belfast Telegraph


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