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Pogba thanks Mourinho for improving him as a person

By Reuters - Dec 23,2018 - Last updated at Dec 23,2018

Manchester United’s Paul Pogba (right) celebrates after the match with interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Saturday (Reuters photo)

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has thanked Jose Mourinho for helping him “improve as a person” despite the breakdown of their relationship in the last few months leading up to the former manager’s sacking on Tuesday.

Mourinho, who replaced Dutchman Louis van Gaal in 2016, won the Europa League and League Cup in his first campaign, but his third season was dominated by media reports of a rift with Pogba while United laboured on the pitch playing dull soccer.

Pogba was stripped of vice captaincy earlier this season and dropped for the final three league games of Mourinho’s tenure, but the France international said that he had no hard feelings towards the Portuguese.

“We won trophies with Jose and I want to thank him for that. Not everything worked well, but [some] things went well,” Pogba told the British media.

“He makes me improve, as a person as well, and that’s it. That’s the past, I want to thank him for that. I’m sure that is the same for all the players.” 

Pogba was immediately restored to the starting line-up under caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and produced two assists in Saturday’s 5-1 Premier League thrashing of Cardiff City.

After City’s sensational 3-2 reverse against Crystal Palace at their Etihad fortress, United seemed liberated and re-energised under Solskjaer as they romped Cardiff City — the first time they have hit five in the league since the final match of the golden Alex Ferguson era in 2013.

So, what recently looked like an imperious title defence now looks problematic as City lie four points behind leaders Liverpool, who had thrown down the gauntlet with a 2-0 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday.

In stark contrast, after a traumatic week which saw the end of Mourinho’s two-and-a-half-year reign, Manchester United seemed mentally and physically reborn, playing with verve, pace and attacking intent that reflected the smile of their still fresh-faced caretaker boss and old club hero, Solskjaer.

He was beaming after three minutes when Marcus Rashford’s free kick put United ahead and further goals before halftime from Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial — after a dazzling passing interchange — and a second-half double from Jesse Lingard made it a perfect start for the Norwegian.

United, with Paul Pogba back in the fold, poured forward in a free-spirited manner rarely seen under Mourinho as Solskjaer lifted the gloom of United’s worst start in 28 years.

“Football is easy if you have good players. This is such a great group of players. The quality is just unbelievable,” Solskjaer said, as both his team and ex-United players, headed by Wayne Rooney, all praised the instant “Ole effect”.

Chelsea’s loss at Stamford Bridge seemed almost as unlikely as Manchester City’s with Leicester facing the prospect of a third straight defeat but Jamie Vardy’s first-time finish soon after the break brought much-needed relief for the Foxes’ manager Claude Puel.

“The performance of the team was great and we are happy that the first game of the manager starts like this,” Pogba added.

“It’s important now to carry on like that. We cannot play like this and win with five goals and then the next game lose.”

United, who are sixth in the standings with 29 points after 18 matches, host Huddersfield Town on Wednesday.

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