'There's No Problem With Pogba,' Jose Mourinho Says After Hooking Him Again

Less than a minute after Newcastle United took the lead against Manchester United at St. James' Park on Sunday (February 11), Jose Mourinho was preparing his changes.

Juan Mata was on his feet, stripped off, ready to bring some more creativity to United's midfield in an attempt to salvage the points. He came on in place of Jesse Lingard.

Also preparing to enter the field was Michael Carrick, the 36-year-old Manchester United captain, thrown on for Paul Pogba. It was the third consecutive match that United's £89 million man has failed to complete 90 minutes.

He was hooked by Mourinho at Wembley in the 2-0 defeat to Tottenham at the end of January, started on the bench against Huddersfield last time out, and replaced after 66 minutes against Newcastle. So, what's the problem then?

"There was no problem with Pogba," Mourinho said after the game. "I wanted a better way to come out against a compact team by bringing on Michael Carrick. He makes everything simple."

The praise of Carrick's approach subtly critiqued Pogba, and the holes that remain in his game. Mourinho's words came just hours after the ink on Graeme Souness' column for The Sunday Times had dried.

Mourinho and Pogba
Jose Mourinho, left, and Paul Pogba at Wembley Stadium, London, January 31. Mourinho clearly has a big problem with Pogba. IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty

"Paul Pogba is capable of great things, but a country mile from being a great player," Souness wrote in his opening line. "He is 24 now and an £89 million signing, yet he still doesn't understand what is required to play that position properly."

It is now 18 months since Pogba returned to Old Trafford and Mourinho has deployed him in a variety of positions. He has played in a midfield-two in front of the defense. He has played as the number 10, behind Romelu Lukaku. And he has played on the left of a three in midfield, the position he played with such success at Juventus.

And it was in this position that Souness felt Pogba has played his best game for United this season, in the 2-0 victory at Goodison Park on New Year's Day. This allowed him, Souness says, to play wide.

"When he's asked to do a job centrally, he's forever straying towards the touchline trying to get on the ball," the former Liverpool manager wrote. "A central midfielder should never be in areas wider than the penalty box, unless they are out there to confront danger defensively.

"Pogba empties that central area far too readily. He will do something clever in the final third, but will be absent when his back four are under the cosh. He plays like a schoolboy running after the ball in the playground."

And Souness' views may be shared by Mourinho. At Wembley, he brought on Mata for Pogba because he needed creativity; at Newcastle, he brought on Carrick for Pogba because he needed simplicity. Both men know Pogba's potential but are frustrated by his ill discipline.

The problem for the 24-year-old Frenchman, though, may be that he needs someone like Souness, someone who will be revered in the midfield position to coach him on the training pitch. This is where Mourinho's limitations may lie.