Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba shared a tense training ground exchange the day after the Manchester United manager stripped the midfielder of the vice-captaincy.
Old Trafford is under the spotlight once again as Tuesday’s shock Carabao Cup exit to second-tier Derby compounded fresh speculation over the club’s record signing.
Pogba was a hot topic before and after seeing his team-mates go down 8-7 on penalties after a 2-2 home draw, with Mourinho confirming post-match that the rested midfielder will no long skipper the side in the absence of Antonio Valencia.
It was reported in the build-up that the Reds boss had told the World Cup winner in front of the squad that he would not captain United again as he did not embody what the club is about.
Mourinho denied any falling out with Pogba when confirming the decision, but Sky Sports’ footage from training the following morning suggested all is not well.
The 25-year-old was seen shaking hands with coach Michael Carrick, Mourinho and a member of United’s media officer John Allen, before looking taken aback by something the manager said.
Pogba then had an apparently exasperated discussion with the manager in a clip viewed seven million times in nine hours on one of the channel’s Twitter posts alone.
Mourinho was heard to ask Allen about Pogba’s Instagram story, which Press Association Sport understands referred to a post showing the midfielder laughing in the stands with the likes of Luke Shaw and Andreas Pereira.
The fact it was posted after the match got under the manager’s skin, but it is understood the lack of signal at Old Trafford was behind the time of the upload and not related to the result as the manager initially believed.
Still, the fact Mourinho broached the subject in front of the Sky Sports cameras is interesting in itself.
Press Association Sport understands the access was part of a pre-arranged open session that formed part of its broadcasting agreement, but what had been expected to be a tame recovery session instead raised fresh concerns over the pair’s relationship.
Pogba returned to Old Trafford from Juventus in 2016, but his relationship with the manager that signed him has been testy at times.
United’s hierarchy steadfastly refused to sell the reportedly unsettled midfielder over the summer, but fresh talk of a January exit is beginning to grow.
Barcelona continue to be strongly linked with Pogba, who suggested that he would be fined if he opened up about his happiness after captaining United to an opening-day win against Leicester.
The 25-year-old went on to wear the armband against Brighton and Young Boys, but Mourinho confirmed after the defeat to Derby that he will no longer stand in for captain Valencia.
“The only truth is that I made the decision of Paul not to be the second captain any more, but no fall-out, no problems at all,” the United boss told Sky Sports.
“The same person that decides that Paul is not the second captain anymore is the same person who decides that Paul was the second captain. Myself. I am the manager, I can make these decisions.
“No fall-out at all, no problems at all, just one decision that I don’t have to explain.”
Sources close to the club have not been surprised by this week’s developments, but this would not be the first time Mourinho’s man-management has shocked his players.
The Portuguese, as planned, swerved the post-match press conference on Tuesday, when reports emanated suggesting Pogba’s desire to leave for Barca was behind the manager’s decision to strip him of the vice-captaincy.
Pogba’s comments after the drab 1-1 home draw with Wolves are also said to have got under Mourinho’s skin.
Having scored two and set up the other in the 3-0 victory at Young Boys, the France international under-performed on his return to Premier League action and was dispossessed in the move that led to Joao Moutinho’s equaliser.
Pogba told reporters that United should “attack, attack, attack” after failing to beat promoted Wolves, but took umbrage with the way those comments were portrayed.
“Some people make polemic even from ‘good morning’ to create drama,” Pogba wrote on Twitter at the start of the week. “Big Pogoodmorning everyone hope u get it twisted.”
Pogba has yet to post anything this season that clarifies his United future.