Manchester (AFP) – Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho denied any rift with Manchester City rival Pep Guardiola, but believes his counterpart made a mistake in claiming he had been offered the chance to sign Paul Pogba by the player’s agent on the eve of Saturday’s Manchester derby.
Pogba put a desperately disappointing season so far behind him by scoring twice to inspire an incredible United comeback from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at the Etihad and prevent City from sealing the Premier League title in the process.
Just a day earlier, Guardiola said that Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola - who has repeatedly criticised Guardiola since another of his clients, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, struggled in one season under the Catalan at Barcelona - had offered him the chance to buy Pogba and former United midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January.
"I also make mistakes. (There is) no problem," said Mourinho when quizzed whether Guardiola had over-stepped the mark by commenting on speculation over one of his players.
"We know that the Guardiola-Mino relation is not the best so (it) is normal that sometimes they can come with a little touch on each other.
"But I was not worried about it, upset about it, I didn’t speak with Paul about it, I didn’t call Mino to ask anything at all.
"I was just focused on the game and I think Paul the same because the way he played is only possible when he is focused on the game."
Pogba responded to Guardiola’s claim by posting a cupped ear emoji on his Twitter feed alongside the message ‘Say what?!’
The French international stood in front of the City fans doing the same gesture 24 hours later in celebration of by a distance his most significant contribution since United paid a then-world record £89 million to bring him back to the club from Juventus in 2016.
Often been dropped by Mourinho for United’s biggest games this season, Pogba showed the threat he can pose when freed up from the defensive duties often imposed by the Portuguese.
"We knew we had to score goals, we were losing 2-0," said Pogba, who also claimed watching City win the title in the derby would have been “like a death” for United fans.
"With City they love to attack, they don’t like to defend, so I had to get more in the box, I knew I had Nemanja Matic behind me and Ander Herrera with me."
Mourinho lauded Pogba’s attitude in training of late, but insisted he has to deliver on the high standards expected of him more regularly.
"Two goals from a midfield player in a big match like this one stays in the memory of the people, especially for the fans,” added Mourinho.
"He needs that confidence because he knows, I know, everybody knows he had some performances not at the level we expect from Paul."