Jose Mourinho has cautioned not to expect instant heroics from Paul Pogba, but strongly suggested that the world’s most expensive player will make his second debut for Manchester United at home to Southampton on Friday. Pogba completed his record-breaking transfer back to Old Trafford early last week, but was prevented from taking part in United’s opening game of the Premier League season against Bournemouth due to a suspension carried over from his time at Juventus.
While he had yet to start preseason training before his move to United following his exploits at Euro 2016, Mourinho has backed up Pogba’s comments earlier in the week that the France international is ready to play and make his first appearance for the club in more than four years. A start and a starring impact may be beyond him at this stage, though.
"Paul has been training for more than a week, around 10, 11 days, adaptation is really easy because he is a boy from here, he knows the club, he knows everybody,” Mourinho said at his pre-match press conference. “There's no need for time to adapt.
"He needs time to build his condition and his understanding in the way the team tries to play. Yes, he's ready to play. Ninety minutes? I don't believe. Super performance? I don't believe. But in condition to accelerate his process of integration in the team, that's for sure.”
Without Pogba, Manchester United started Premier League life under Mourinho with a 3-1 win over Bournemouth. It leaves Mourinho with tough decisions over whether to bring Chris Smalling and Jesse Lingard back into the lineup after they missed out on Sunday through suspension and injury, respectively. New signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, meanwhile, was limited to a role off the bench in that game and could make his first start on Friday.
If reports are to be believed, Mourinho’s summer transfer business isn’t done quite yet, with the club linked with Southampton center-back Jose Fonte. Coming as it does in the lead up to a visit to Old Trafford, it makes the decision of new Southampton manger Claude Puel over whether to play Fonte on Friday even more complex. Fonte sat out his team’s opening game of the season after playing his part in Portugal’s run to the Euro 2016 final.
Puel is adamant, though, that that his captain won’t be impacted, even if he has suggested some mischief in the timing of the speculation.
“There’s no problem with Jose,” he said in his pre-match press conference. [It’s] just strange to see these rumors just before the game against united. It’s a possibility he travels with us to United but it’s strange. He’s a very good professional, he had good training sessions this week, and it’s important to have Jose with us and I hope against United. For me it’s just a rumor, it’s not a problem.”
Puel took over from Ronald Koeman this summer and has had to oversee a familiar high turnover of players at St Mary’s this summer. Graziano Pelle, who scored twice against United in a 3-2 defeat at St Mary’s last season, has departed, along with Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama. But one of the new signings, Nathan Redmond, made a positive first impression when scoring to earn his new side a 1-1 draw with Watford on Saturday.
Kickoff Time: 3 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: USA
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra