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Jose Mourinho defends relationship with Paul Pogba... and insists only player he has fined is Anthony Martial

Jason Burt
Jose Mourinho insists he has a good relationship with Paul Pogba - PA

Jose Mourinho has insisted he has never had a “fight” with Paul Pogba and suggested it is up to the apparently unsettled Manchester United midfielder to explain what he meant when he said “there are things I cannot say otherwise I will get fined”.

In robustly defending his relationship with Pogba, who United steadfastly say will not be sold to Barcelona, Mourinho revealed that the only United player who had been fined during his time at the club was Anthony Martial.

The forward is understood to have been fined two weeks wages, around £180,000, for going AWOL after the birth of his baby son this summer. Martial upset Mourinho by leaving United’ pre-season tour to the United States early to fly back to Paris and then not returning. Martial, who wants to leave United because of his lack of first-team opportunities, is not believed to have trained during that time.

United do not want to sell Martial either but it is Pogba’s future that has been in the sharpest focus given his status at the club, where he is the record signing at £89million, and as a World Cup winner with France and because his relationship with Mourinho had appeared strained for some time.

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“He never had a fight with me. We never had a warm (heated), a hard, I don’t know how you say, exchange of words. Everything is respected. I have no problems at all,” the United manager stated with photographs showing Pogba, and his team-mates, in high spirits at the club’s Carrington training ground ahead of Sunday’s Premier League fixture away to Brighton where they lost last season.

Pogba answered Mourinho’s call to return to first-team action, after just three days training, following his post-World Cup holiday, for last Friday’s league match at home to Leicester City. It was after that game, however, that Pogba hinted at his unhappiness and said he could not go further for fear of being fined.

“You have to ask him. You have to ask him,” Mourinho said when asked what Pogba meant. “You know I'm here for two years and a couple of months and the only player that was fined was Anthony Martial, so is not easy to be fined here. So you have to ask him. I didn’t ask him, I’m not going to ask him. I repeat I want him to work the way he is doing and to play the way he is doing and, for me, that's the only thing that matters.”

Asked about Pogba’s comments, when the player also referred to the need for “trust” and singled out the fans and team-mates – but not the manager – Mourinho said: “I don't care. I don’t care. I repeat: I want him to play well, I want him to play for that team, I want him to play for the fans, and that is what he did. He's working extremely well here but I have to say in his defence that write what you want about him, write what you want about me, please don't say lies, please don't put him in a situation where people can think that he's not a polite, educated guy, which he is.”

In the absence of the injured Antonio Valencia who, like Nemanja Matic returned to full training on Thursday, but is not expected to be included in the squad to face Brighton, Pogba was awarded the captaincy. The 25-year-old will retain it for Sunday’s game, for which Jesse Lingard could feature after recovering from a groin problem, and until Valencia returns.

Anthony Martial wants to leave Manchester United Credit: getty images

“The truth is we are together for two years and a couple of weeks and I've never been so happy with him (Pogba) as I am now, that's the truth,” Mourinho said. “I cannot demand more from him, I cannot ask more from him. He came here on a Monday (last week), trained three days, I asked for his support for his contribution in an important match for us when the team had difficulties, he did it, he did it better and for more time than we could expect.

“When he says he did it for the fans and for the team is exactly what I want, is exactly what I demand from my players, he's giving me, he’s working well, playing well, he does for the fans, he does for the team and that's what I want, to play for the team which he is doing and I repeat couldn't be happier than what I am.”

Mourinho is understood to have been surprised at Pogba’s comments especially as he believes he offered an ‘olive branch’ by making him captain. He was also angered by claims that he had had a bust-up with Pogba and had told him he could leave United if he wanted to.

Nevertheless Mourinho is certainly aware of the French international’s feelings with sources close to the player, who was dropped last season at times, suggesting he was unhappy with some of the criticism levelled at him by the manager over the summer. During the US tour Mourinho said Pogba’s form had improved during the World Cup because he was free of distractions and fully focussed on football.

Mourinho is also acutely aware the machinations to try and manoeuvre a move to Barcelona for Pogba who are playing a longer game in trying to make the transfer eventually happen.

Mourinho also confirmed that Matteo Darmian will stay at United with the club believing the Italian can provide back-up for either full-back position.

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