There is going to be an interesting reunion in Serie A this weekend but not a conventional one as Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba will square-up as AS Roma host Juventus at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.
The pair spent two-and-a-half years together at Manchester United with both arriving at Old Trafford in the summer of 2016. Mourinho was there first and it was he who got the club to splash out £89 million on the French midfield maestro from Juventus to bring him back to the club where he spent several years in the academy alongside the likes of Jesse Lingard and Ravel Morrison.
However, it will not be a conventional reunion as the duo’s relationship strained the deeper into their time working together. In hindsight it is clear why the two didn’t really see eye to eye, or that Mourinho couldn’t help take the Frenchman to another level on the pitch. When you think back to the types of players that Mourinho had strong connections with as a coach you think back to his first stint at Chelsea where he had the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ricardo Carvalho - all of whom had very different personalities to Pogba.
You never saw his Chelsea stars don a variety of different hairstyles and show off their earrings on the pitch. Pogba was a player with a huge personality and one that Mourinho had not dealt with before so it wasn’t surprising to see the two not ending up as best buds. Pogba revealed that he only started to have a problem with his former boss when Mourinho believed the player was taking a holiday to Miami when Pogba was there for rehabilitation after suffering an injury in 2017.
Pogba endured several injury problems during his United career and along with inconsistency with his performances, he didn’t quite hit the heights expected of him back at the Theatre of Dreams. But he probably wasn’t helped by Mourinho often using him as a scapegoat when results went awry and that likely affected Pogba’s confidence.
Given the way that Pogba liked to express himself on a football pitch and Mourinho’s teams being more known for their organisation and collectivism, it was always going to end badly - which of course it did. In hindsight it is obvious that both parties were not fautless for the break down in their professional relationship but both could've and should've handled themselves more professionally as there is no doubt their conflict had an effect on the dressing room.
Despite the animosity the two of them have for one another, however, they did enjoy success together in their first year at United as they collected the Community Shield, the League Cup and Europa League titles. Some will say that Mourinho stunted Pogba’s development but the truth is that he never consistently found the fluent rhythm that made him a superstar in Turin and with the French national team.
By the time of Mourinho’s departure in December 2018, Pogba enjoyed a sparkling run of form when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over the reins but it was clear there was no love lost for the Portuguese coach. In 2021, the midfielder slammed Mourinho’s man-management and accused him of “going against players” and making them “feel like they don’t exist anymore.”
Fast forward two years and the two former colleagues are about to come face-to-face once again but on opposing sides. Pogba finally made his long-awaited second debut for Juve in midweek, seven months after joining the club from United. Given the history between himself and Mourinho, both will be out to try and get one over the other in Rome this Sunday, and it will be very interesting to see if they have a conversation or share a handshake.