Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho appeared to share a frosty exchange at Manchester United training on Wednesday to further fuel talk of a rift between the pair.
Following Tuesday’s penalty shoot-out loss to Championship side Derby County in the EFL Cup – a match the rested Pogba watched from the stands – Mourinho confirmed he had stripped him of United’s vice-captaincy.
The former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss denied there has been any fall out with Pogba but footage of the 25-year-old’s welcome to the AON Training Complex pitches the day after made for intriguing viewing.
In a clip aired by Sky Sports News, Pogba is shown jogging on to the field and shaking hands with first-team coach Michael Carrick, Mourinho and another member of staff, at which point the manager appeared to make a comment.
The exchange left Pogba with a quizzical expression and he proceeded to walk past his coach offering further observations.
Mourinho made Pogba the most expensive player in history when he signed him from Juventus for £89.3million in 2016, but his form over two completed seasons since returning to Old Trafford has been patchy.
Pogba performed impressively as France won the World Cup this year, scoring in the 4-2 final win over Croatia, but Mourinho forewent a pre-season opportunity to praise his player and pointedly questioned his capacity to focus over the course of a whole campaign.
It was therefore a surprise when Pogba was handed the captain’s armband for the opening-weekend 2-1 win over Leicester City as a stand-in for regular skipper Antonio Valencia. After converting a penalty, the midfielder told reporters he could not freely discuss his feelings on his situation at United for fear of being fined.
Barcelona were linked with a move for the player, who claimed his attitude was not right during United’s subsequent 3-2 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion.
A brace in the 3-0 Champions League win over Young Boys last week took Pogba to four goals and two assists in all competitions for United this season, but he called on the team to “attack, attack, attack” after the weekend draw against Wolves – words interpreted in some quarters as a critique of Mourinho’s tactics – before losing his status as vice-captain.