Jose Mourinho has taken what appears for all the world to be a thinly-veiled dig at Paul Pogba's levels of focus off the pitch, saying that the World Cup is a better environment for the Frenchman than a league season.
Pogba's critics have long complained that he should focus more on his football than his off-field antics, with former Liverpool star Graeme Souness particularly keen on knocking the World Cup winner at any possible opportunity.
Mourinho appears to question Pogba’s commitment/focus to #MUFC in his #ESPN interview. Doesn’t look great this. Needs reminding that he’s in a privileged position & calling big players out alongside constant moaning is not the behaviour you want to read about from a #MUFC manager— Tom McDermott (@MrTomMcDermott) July 24, 2018
Speaking to ESPN FC on Manchester United's pre-season tour of the USA, Mourinho hinted that he blamed Pogba for his perceived inconsistencies at club level, compared to his continued excellence at the summer's blue riband competition, saying: "I don't think it's about us getting the best out of him, it's about him giving the best he has to give."
He continued: "I think the World Cup is the perfect habitat for a player like him to give [their] best. Why? Because it's closed for a month, where he can only think about football. Where he's with his team on the training camp, completely isolated from the external world, where they focus just on football, where the dimensions of the game can only motivate.
"During a season, you can have a big match then a smaller match, then one even smaller, then you can lose your focus, you can lose your concentration, then comes a big match again. In the World Cup, the direction of the emotion, of the responsibility, of the big decisions is always growing up."
The comments are the latest in a string of bizarrely negative complaints from Mourinho over the last week or two, even hitting out at the concept of pre-season tours in the last couple of days, saying: "For me it is a very strange pre-season. How many of these players are going to play the majority of the games in the Premier League? Not one hand of them. It's a bit strange for me."