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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 14 October, 2019

'If I'm a player in the dressing room, and you've got him acting like that, I'm not going to be happy'

Graeme Souness has suggested Paul Pogba’s agent is trying engineer a move for his client.

Paul Pogba (file pic).
Paul Pogba (file pic).
Image: EMPICS Sport

GRAEME SOUNESS BELIEVES Paul Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, is trying to engineer a move for the player away from Man United and says these actions are unlikely to go down well in the club’s dressing room.

Having been dropped on more than one occasion amid an inconsistent season in the Premier League last year, the 25-year-old midfielder recovered well to star in France’s World Cup triumph in the summer.

Manager Jose Mourinho recently played down suggestions that there is tension between the pair and even made Pogba captain for the Red Devils’ first two league games.

Nevertheless, Pogba has come out with a couple of eyebrow-raising statements in recent weeks. Following the win over Leicester, he told reporters: “There are things and there are things that I cannot say, otherwise I will get fined.”

And after the loss to Brighton, the French star said his attitude “was not right”. The remarks were vague enough that people have interpreted them in different ways, but Souness is in no doubt that there is a desire on Pogba’s end to move elsewhere.

“The agent’s trying to engineer him out of it,” the 65-year-old pundit said at today’s Virgin Media Sport’ launch. “The agent’s speaking to Barcelona or whoever and he’s obviously had positive feedback. Any big club, Barcelona, can’t be seen to force the issue at this time. It’s an unhealthy situation. Two games in, one game in, it happened before the very first game, he’s making noises he wants to leave.

If I’m a player in the dressing room, and you’ve got him acting like that, I’m not going to be happy with him. Mourinho’s going down the road that, given his character, he would not want to go down, feeding him sugar lumps, saying he had a “monster” game the first game, he didn’t. Making him captain — he’s not captain material, not yet. It’s a difficult one. This one is hurting Mourinho, he’s going against his basic instincts, the way he’s always operated. With Pogba, he’s somebody different.”

In addition to the significant transfer fee they paid for him, a recent report in The Times cited Pogba’s commercial value as another reason why the Chief Executive of United, Ed Woodward, will not sanction any attempts to sell the player. And Souness agrees that Mourinho is unlikely to have the authority to force the star’s exit.

“Managers become strong if they’re winning trophies and the signings they make, if they’re choosing them, do well.

“Part of Mourinho’s reason for being unhappy is he didn’t get a centre half [in the summer transfer window], but Ed Woodward would quite rightly say ‘we’ve spent [€35 million] on Lindelof,’ so I think it’s an unhappy ship. Two games in, it’s not where you want to be.

“And of course, because it’s Man United, everyone will be talking about it.”

And while acknowledging that Mourinho’s comments pre-season on the team’s US tour are likely to have further strained his relationship with the club’s hierarchy, the pundit believes it would be unwise of the board to give up on the embattled manager at this juncture.

They finished second last year. Two games in, it would be ridiculous to get rid of him at this time. But he has the biggest part to play. He’s got to get the players onside, all going in the same direction. He’s got to solve the Pogba one. Monday-Friday, it’s him that sets the tone around Carrington. Right now, the players look as if they’re not enjoying the football.”

Souness is far more positive in relation to his former club, Liverpool. While suggesting that Man City are still the team to beat, he feels the Reds are well equipped to enjoy plenty of success in the coming years.

“The last team they had playing that brand of football were Kenny [Dalglish]‘s team, who won the double [in the 1985-86 season]. I think this is the most exciting period in their history possibly coming up.

“They’ve got some fabulous players, strength in depth and I see them being a force. Look at the back five that played against West Ham on the opening day and it was the same back five that played against Palace as well. They could be together for a decade. Van Dijk could play until 35, the goalkeeper’s 25, Gomez is only a baby, Robertson’s only 24 and the young Scouser [Trent Alexander-Arnold], they could be together for a long time.”

Graeme Souness is part of the punditry team for Virgin Media Sport’s European football coverage. More info here.

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Paul Fennessy

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