Jose Mourinho said a “phenomenal” Paul Pogba showed that he is “confident in the skin of a star” during his first appearance for the club since re-joining this summer in a world record £89 million move.
Pogba made a sloppy start in the 2-0 win over Southampton at Old Trafford on Friday, when he conceded possession cheaply but grew in confidence as the game went on. United manager Mourinho had said that the player would be given “some minutes” but he went on to play the full match, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s two goals helped the home team to a comfortable win.
Speaking in his postmatch news conference, Mourinho said: “He was fantastic. The fact that his first action was bad — loses the ball, gives a free kick to the opposition — means that you can see even more the ego and the personality. So comfortable in the skin of a star. So confident. Considering his training and that it was his first match of the season, he played phenomenal.”
Mourinho was more coy when asked if Pogba would continue to play the role he was given against Southampton, as a deeper midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation alongside Marouane Fellaini. The United manager said: “I don’t know what you mean. We have to build a certain organisation around him. He has to play free.”
Ibrahimovic’s first goal came when he jumped above Jose Fonte and headed in Wayne Rooney’s cross. The second goal arrived as he took the penalty United were awarded, rather than the regular taker Rooney.
Explaining the decision over who took the penalty, Mourinho said: “I designated three — Paul, Wayne and Zlatan. Wayne and Paul told Zlatan ‘you are the first. If you don’t want to take it for some reason, we are here.'”
The United manager also said that the crowd had responded well to players in a way that was not always the case previously, giving Fellaini as an example. Mourinho believes that a phone call to Fellaini helped build the former Everton midfielder’s confidence before the season started.
The Portuguese said: “A player that was not loved, everybody said he was leaving and he was not a player for me. A simple phone call the day after my presentation as Man United manager changed a lot. I told him ‘forget everything you read. With me, you don’t leave for sure.'”