Jose Mourinho praised Paul Pogba, describing him as a “monster” after a strong showing in Manchester United’s Premier League opener against Leicester City just four days after returning to training.
The midfielder returned on Monday and, although he has not featured in any pre-season friendlies due to his leave following the World Cup, he was thrust straight back into the action four days later as the Premier League started once again at Old Trafford, with United winning 2-1 on Friday.
Wearing the captain’s armband, Pogba got the scoring started with a third-minute penalty and generally impressed in the centre of the pitch, but it was his ability to keep going for 80 minutes despite a lack of a pre-season that Mourinho focused on in his post-match news conference.
“Of course the boys with the proper pre-seasons, they were in much better condition,” Mourinho said.
“Luke Shaw, Andreas Pereira, Eric Bailly, Matteo Darmian, they were comfortable to play 90 mins. The others were fantastic.”
“Marcus Rashford was in trouble, but he played. Pogba was a monster. We thought, he could play a maximum 60 minutes, but he managed 80.”
“Then Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini were available to try to help the team. I was fantastic spirit, and there were periods of very good football.”
“In the periods Leicester were stronger we played as a team and coped well.”
Although many were surprised to see Pogba in action again so soon after his post-World Cup break, Mourinho insisted it was not a difficult decision to play him because Pogba said he was ready to play.
“It was not hard,” Mourinho added. “The decision belonged to him, because Andreas Pereira comes from Valencia bench as a winger to play number six; Fred had 10 days training, Ukrainian league, comes direct to Old Trafford; Ander Herrera injured.”
“I had only two options; Scott McTominay or Paul, but if I play Scott I play two kids and a new player, so I asked Paul and he put himself available for the team and he was very, very good for us.”