Jose Mourinho has officially welcomed Paul Pogba to Old Trafford and defended the world record fee paid for a player he believes is now in the perfect place to develop into the very best in the game.
Juventus midfielder Pogba undergoes a medical today, to complete a transfer which will underline the level of United’s ambition and leave fans on a high ahead of next weekend’s kick-off in the Premier League.
The fee may fall narrowly short of the magical £100m (€118m) mark which has dominated British headlines for the last month but it will certainly top the current world record of £86m (€101m) paid by Real Madrid for Gareth Bale, an eye-watering one when you consider Pogba spent three years with United as a youngster and was allowed to leave for Italy for just €2m in 2012 when his contract expired at the age of just 19.
However, Mourinho has no concerns about the money paid to bring the 23-year-old ‘home’ and at the end of a landmark weekend in which United also beat Leicester 2-1 in the Community Shield, he hailed the transfer as an indication of his club’s intent.
He said: “It’s amazing that such a good player is with us. Finally, we have him. He comes to a winning side — a team who have won their last two matches, in the FA Cup and today. He has to work hard to come to the team. The fee does not worry me. I don’t think Real Madrid were upset when they broke the record for Gareth Bale or Cristiano. It’s a reason to be proud of the dimension of the club. I think the market has become crazy. So, what you think this season is crazy, in three seasons will not be crazy. I just know that he’s a big player who is going to be important for a big club.”
Pogba, who played 178 games for Juve scoring 34 goals, is already in England and Mourinho has no reason to think there will be any problems with his medical, adding: “He does kung-fu, karate, running, basketball, football — he does everything so he must be fit. Tuesday I will be there waiting for him. It’s been a good market for us. The squad is good. We need to work a lot, but I am happy. United is the perfect club to bring him to the level that he wants to be, the Premier League is the perfect habitat.
“If you want to be the best player in the world, if you go to Barca or Real Madrid you are in trouble. Here he has the conditions to develop in the most-seen worldwide championship with a team that wants to bring Man United to the top again.
“We have everything to give him and we know the reasons why he wants to come to us. He comes because he knows the club, he knows the players, he wants to be an important part of the project.”
Pogba, who never quite hit the heights for France in Euro 2016 where he played a deeper more defensive role, looks likely to be used higher up the pitch for United, with Mourinho comparing him to some of the greatest attacking midfielders in Premier League history, including Paul Scholes.
“We have No 10s, we don’t have what I used to call the second midfield player. The one that is strong enough, is powerful enough, has defensive intensity but at the same time has creativity, has goals,” said Mourinho. “Lampard, Scholes, Gerrard; they’re the second player who sometimes score more goals than the No 10 but defends as a No 6. These players are so difficult to find. I’ve given you the names of three players and they represent three fantastic players.”
Pogbal’s arrival will be a huge boost to a United team which has struggled to live up to former glories since Alex Ferguson retired and which, even in victory, did not hit the heights against Leicester at Wembley in a match which was won by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s late header.
However with Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan also on board, there is clearly a springboard in place for further success.
Mourinho said: “It’s an important victory but we have lots of work to do. I would be not ambitious if I said it was a fantastic performance. It wasn’t. But it’s always important to start with a trophy.”
The performance, and Pogba’s arrival, does leave the future of Marouane Fellaini, who was once again booed by his own fans, in doubt — and there is also a question mark over Juan Mata, who was brought on as a sub and then ruthlessly removed before the final whistle (Mourinho insisting he needed to take off the smallest player on the pitch to combat Leicester’s long balls).
Considering Mata was also sold by Mourinho at Chelsea, where he had been player of the year two seasons in a row, there is a reason for the Spaniard to be nervous. But for United fans right now there is nothing but optimism as they left Wembley singing ‘Pogba’s coming home’.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved