Jose Mourinho has ordered Manchester United’s record signing, Paul Pogba, to show consistency on the training ground, as well as in competitive action, following his stunning display against Premier League leaders Manchester City last weekend.
The France international scored two goals the first time he has done so in the Premier League in a remarkable second-half recovery from United as they won the Manchester derby 3-2 to deny City a win that would have seen Pep Guardiola’s men clinch the title.
It was a defiant response from Pogba, whose drop in form had seen him lose his starting place under Mourinho earlier this year, although his manager does not expect him to repeat such displays on a weekly basis.
Mourinho, however, has told Pogba he wants to see greater consistency from him, particularly in training, with the United manager clearly implying the 25-year-old midfielder has not always hit the necessary standards.
“I will tell you what I told him after the (City) match and it’s exactly what I told him, I don’t expect you to be a man of the match every week, I don’t expect you to score two goals every week,” said Mourinho.
“I expect you to be consistent in a certain level. So, if you ask me, I’m expecting Paul now to be a man of the match every week? No. Do I expect him to score goals every match? No.
“But I expect Paul and I think that’s the challenge he has to put to himself — to keep a certain stability and not to have the good match and the so-so match and the bad match,” the Portuguese boss added.
Pogba’s form, particularly since the January signing of Alexis Sanchez, has been one of the fascinating sub-plots of United’s season with the player reportedly unhappy at the defensive responsibilities he has been asked to perform.
Certainly, in a more advanced role, Pogba was devastating against City and Mourinho clearly believes his £89 million ($126 million) star is capable of repeating that form in the future.
– ‘Not do anything crazy’ –
“I think he has to try to keep that level of stability and from that stability, of course, will appear the special match with the special performance like it happened against City,” he said.
“But he has to go for that stability and to go for that stability, the first thing is stability at training level, stability during the working week. And the past two, three weeks I’m really happy with him.”
United’s strong recent form sees them take on West Bromwich Albion on Sunday looking for an eighth consecutive domestic victory and has raised optimism among supporters over their prospects for next season.
But, despite upsetting City at the Etihad last weekend, Mourinho has urged caution and clearly believes Guardiola will spend lavishly again this summer while insisting United will not attempt to match his City counterpart’s outlay.
“No. We are not going to spend more than we can. We are not going to do anything crazy,” said Mourinho.
“We are just trying to improve a little bit more, to give sequence to it. That’s what we are going to try.”
Mourinho added: “I think Man City wins the title (this season). They have been the best team during the season and the distance of points at the end of the season will be the consequence of that superiority that they showed.
“But it is not about us and them, I think it is about the six teams. Everybody will try to improve like we did from last season.
“Last season we finished sixth and this season we are going to finish I believe fourth, third or second – hopefully second – and next season we are going to try and improve but let’s see what happens.
“Maybe also Manchester City will invest heavily and they don’t let the others close the gap to them, I don’t know.”