13 Jan Pogba captain of the future
Paul Pogba’s charisma and winning mentality makes Jose Mourinho believe the midfielder could one day make a fine Manchester United captain.
Four years on from departing without a first-team start to his name, United last summer brought the 23-year-old back to Old Trafford for a world record fee.
The potential 110million euros – £93.75million – price tag looked to weigh heavy as Pogba began his second spell at the club, but markedly improved displays have made him key to a nine-match winning run United will look to extend against rivals Liverpool.
The midfielder has thanked Mourinho for letting him “free on the pitch”, leading to performances that have suitably impressed the Portuguese manager.
“It is not fair to say a player has to be dominant,” the United boss said. “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 bad 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.”
Pogba’s quality on the field is becoming clear, while his character off it is easy to see thanks to his various social media channels.
Charismatic, confident and committed, Mourinho believes the midfielder has the attributes to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson, Roy Keane and Wayne Rooney and captain United.
“I think he has,” Mourinho said. “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 summer arrivals of Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have helped bring a swagger back to an attack that had often toiled since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
United were not only synonymous with entertaining under the Scot but succeeding, usurping Liverpool’s record of English league titles.
Ferguson achieved his long-stated goal of knocking the Reds off their “perch” and Mourinho says there is no doubt United are the country’s biggest team.
Asked if matches between United and Liverpool are the biggest in the country, he said: “I don’t know. I know that Manchester United is the biggest club in this country.
“That 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.”
Mourinho will on Sunday set his side out with a more attack-minded focus than in October’s drab 0-0 draw at Anfield and knows a 10th straight win in all competitions will move them within two points of the side that enter the weekend second.
However, thoughts of a late surge for the title are not entering the Portuguese’s mind, nor is there a feeling that Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool can be intimidated on Sunday.
Mourinho called for the Old Trafford faithful to be more vocal after the midweek EFL Cup semi-final victory against Hull, but that is to help his side rather hinder the opponents.
“In modern football there is no more intimidating,” Mourinho said. “These guys are used to strong atmospheres. It cannot affect the Liverpool players.
“A strong atmosphere from our fans cannot intimidate the Liverpool players.
“What it can do is give something more to ours. I don’t think it can influence.
“Anfield was no influence on us, not at all. It gave something more to them.
“That is what Old Trafford can do to our boys. That little extra. You are tired but you have a little more to give. You are confident, so you are going to be ultra-confident.
“But not interfering with Liverpool. They come here with stability to do their game and follow Jurgen’s game-plan, what he thinks can be their game.
“I think they will play their game. Our boys, with a special support, they can have a special performance, yes.”