Paul Pogba can be Manchester United captain, says Mourinho
Midfielder is answering his critics after shaky start to Premier League career
Paul Pogba has all the qualities to be a future Manchester United captain, according to Jose Mourinho.
The United manager believes the 23-year-old France midfielder’s recent performances show he can be a long-term replacement for Wayne Rooney in the role.
Rooney’s future at Old Trafford has been the subject of speculation, despite the fact he recently drew level with Bobby Charlton as the club’s all-time record goalscorer.
The England captain said in November he wanted to see out his contract with United, which runs until 2019, although he has had started only eight of their 20 Premier League fixtures this season.
Pogba’s form, however, suggests a natural successor is emerging to take over the captaincy on a full-time basis when Rooney does move aside.
The midfielder had a slow start after rejoining the club from Juventus for a world-record £89m (HK$840 million) fee in August, but has flourished since being pushed forward into an attacking midfield role.
“I think he has,” said Mourinho when asked whether he had the qualities to be captain.
“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.”
Mourinho is wary of putting too much pressure on Pogba, though.
“It is not fair to say a player has to be dominant,” said Mourinho.
“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 on Sunday.
Alex Ferguson, during his time in charge at Old Trafford, once declared that United v Liverpool was “the game of the season in English football”.
Mourinho for his part wasn’t so sure.
“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.”
United have won nine successive matches in all competitions going into the mouthwatering clash.
Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic suggested during the week that United can still catch Chelsea in the race for the Premier League title, and Mourinho refused to rule it out.
“We are in the race to win the next match,” said Mourinho.
“We can win against Liverpool. After Liverpool, if you ask me, I will say we can win against Stoke. That is our approach.
“I am still not looking to that [the title].
“Mathematically the numbers are huge. Eighteen matches to play, 54 points to play for.
“Not yet. The last three or four matches, with nine, 12 points to play for. That is the moment to say what we can do. Now is too early.”