Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho believes Paul Pogba has “everything”, but should not be considered a box-to-box midfielder.
Mourinho dropped Pogba to the bench for United’s last Premier League game, selecting Scott McTominay for a 2-0 victory at home against Huddersfield Town on Saturday.
United’s record scorer Wayne Rooney, appearing as a television pundit, suggested Mourinho is not playing Pogba in the right role.
“For me Paul Pogba is a classic box-to-box player. He can do a bit of everything really well,” Rooney told Sky Sports.
But Mourinho hit out at critics of Pogba’s performances when he spoke to the media on Friday ahead of a Premier League trip to Newcastle United.
“The week was not different from what Paul is every week, he is a good professional and likes to train,” Mourinho said. “I never had a problem with his professionalism because he is a good trainer and he likes to train.
“I was laughing over the past week because I heard and watched and read a few things. I’m not English but I think I understand English enough to understand what you mean by box-to-box but with some comments from important people in football I got a little bit confused.
“For me, box-to-box means box-to-box and means you have to be good in this box [defending] and you have to be good in this box [attacking]. You have to defend well in this box and have the physical condition, desire, intensity and stamina to go to the other box.
“You have to be good at scoring, creating, heading and so on and so on. And then when your team loses the ball you have to go to the other box, meaning box-to-box. But I’m confused because when people say box-to-box they mean they have to play free of defensive duties, that is not box-to-box.
“That’s a box in the box and stay in the box and doesn’t move from the box. I got a bit confused. I think this country produced a lot of amazing box-to-box players, I had the pleasure of coaching some of them, but nowadays with some pundits, some agents, some family members I think, the concept of the box-to-box is changing a little bit.
“I think now we are going to a different concept of box-to-box – box-to-box is not my words of course, I heard it for the first time in 2004 when I arrived [in English football]. For me, with my Portuguese and trying to translate to the English, I just think midfield players. And for me Paul is a midfield player.
“He’s not a striker so when people ask what position he plays, he is a midfield player, it depends on the tactical system, he can play with one, two or three, but he is always a midfield player.
“With so many opinions, we are in a world of opinions, people get confused but no confusion between me and Paul – he is a midfield player and that’s it.
“It is difficult to find a player with more potential than Paul, because he has everything.”
Pogba has scored three goals in 16 Premier League appearances this season, contributing nine assists, and Mourinho rejected suggestions the France international should be offering more to the team due to his €105million transfer fee.
“I think every player is in evolution until the end of his career,” Mourinho added. “When you are a young kid you have more to learn but until the end of your career you have things to learn, improve and adapt and I don’t see a problem with that.”