Manchester United’s Paul Pogba ‘unaffected’ by losing vice-captaincy

• José Mourinho stripped Pogba of role in September
• Manager sanguine on eve of Juventus group game

Paul Pogba has claimed being stripped of the Manchester United vice-captaincy by José Mourinho has not affected him and that his relationship with the manager is healthy.

Pogba had worn the armband in Antonio Valencia’s absence this season but before the Carabao Cup game against Derby County in late September he was informed by Mourinho he would no longer do so.

On Pogba’s return to his previous club, Juventus, for Wednesday’s Champions League match the midfielder played down any suggestion this upset him. “For me, it didn’t affect me. I’m still playing and I’m really happy to play,” he said.

“The manager is the one who chooses who is captain. Me, I was the second one after Valencia. Then if he takes the armband from me it doesn’t change anything. I just want to play, perform, that’s my job – to give my best for my team and for everybody, for the fans, for the club. It didn’t really touch me, didn’t affect me. Nothing changed really.”

After captaining United to victory over Leicester in the opening Premier League game Pogba stated he was not allowed to say certain things. This was taken to refer to tension with Mourinho and was one example of apparent unrest between them.

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Asked about his relationship, Pogba said: “It is manager-coach, player-manager. Like everybody [else] I will say. If I ask you this question how is the manager with other players he [Mourinho] will say he is the manager and they the player. I do what he tells me to do. He’s the boss, he’s the manager and I listen and I enjoy it – I just listen and I do it with happiness.”

Mourinho offered a similar response. “There is what the press says and another is what Paul says and another is what I say,” he said. “The press say we have a terrible relationship but some months ago Paul said we have a typical coach and player relationship – I think we have a good relationship between a coach and a football player.”

Pogba was the subject of a bid from Barcelona in the summer and there have been suggestions the 25-year-old wants to leave. The midfielder, though, stated he is content at United.

“Do I look sad?” he said and then smiled. “No.

“Yes, I’m happy. I’m happy to wear the shirt, I’m really happy to come back to Manchester United [after leaving in 2012] wearing this shirt, playing for this team, this big club. When you play in a big club like this there is always talk. We know anything can go on but on the pitch I am always happy, I am always with a smile, fighting for my teammates, club and fans. That’s what I do and I’m really happy to do that.”

Paul Pogba (right) was the subject of a summer bid by Barcelona after winning the World Cup with France.
Paul Pogba (right) was the subject of a summer bid by Barcelona after winning the World Cup with France. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

In the summer, Pogba won football’s highest honour in being part of France’s triumphant World Cup side and when at Juventus he won four Italian championships. Yet United have failed to win the title in the two years since he returned and are already nine points behind Manchester City this time.

Asked if he felt comfortable with this, Pogba said: “I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable. I’m a challenger – I want to win trophies. My third season is still [going] on and hopefully we will win something. As a football player that’s why we play. The Premier League is the goal and the FA Cup and the Champions League is a goal too.

“But we are still there, still on the way – the season is long and we know we didn’t start the best way but it’s not finished. We’ll see at the end what happens.

“In my first season we won three trophies – the Europa League [and League Cup and Community Shield] – and the Europa League was the main goal so as to get back in the Champions League as well. The second year we finished second but we didn’t win any trophy – we went to final of the FA Cup.

“I feel it’s been all right. It’s been good for me, good for the team. We’re Manchester United and we always expect more and [people] expect better from us. We are pushing up and can always do better but I am happy with my performance and what we achieve in the two years.”

United are in second place in Group H on four points, five behind Juventus. If they lose at the Allianz Stadium on Wednesday night the Italian club will be confirmed as group winners. Yet Mourinho pointed to how United will still have the second qualification berth in their hands in the last two games – even if they are defeated.

“Tomorrow is a big match and is big enough not to think about what next,” he said, in reference to Sunday’s visit to Manchester City. “The match against Juventus is not a crucial match. Independent of the result, our next matches against Young Boys and Valencia are the matches that are going to define if we qualify in the second position or to go to the Europa League.

“So this is a match we want to win – we want to compete, we want to play, have to play, and want that very much. The best experiences for teams are against teams that are really at the top and we have that opportunity. But it doesn’t matter what happens here or in Valencia – there are two more matches to play and we can still qualify.”