Premier League Predictor: Movement at the top?
Manchester United will be hoping for some positivity on Saturday when they face West Ham at the London Stadium on the back of what has been a miserable week for the fans.
Tuesday's Carabao Cup game against Derby County had everything a neutral fan could enjoy: a red card, a 95th-minute equaliser, a penalty shootout with a goalkeeper making his debut, and, in the end, the underdog won. Yet United supporters are getting rather sick of all the drama that surrounds their club these days, with Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba currently at the centre of it.
The most recent falling out, which was captured on camera at training on Wednesday, has left the fan base divided, with some sticking with the manager, while others are backing the star player. Mourinho had already announced that Pogba would no longer be his vice-captain, following the player's criticism of the manager's tactics, when he claimed the team needed to attack more, which was again greeted with mixed responses.
While all United fans can agree with what Pogba said following the Wolves game, not all of them were supportive of his decision to air his frustrations in public. There are some things that are better said in the dressing room. To voice them on the television can be seen as nothing other than Pogba's latest attempts to undermine the manager and follow agent Mino Raiola's goal of forcing a move away from the club.
When Roy Keane took to MUTV to blast his teammates following the 4-1 defeat against Middlesbrough in 2005, whether or not the fans agreed with his decision to say it aloud, there was the understanding his rant came from a good place. He wanted United to succeed and he was infuriated by players who didn't have the same desire to win that he possessed.
The same can't be said of Pogba and, if still at the club, Keane would likely be the first to have words with him over his attitude.
When United line up against West Ham, at a ground where Chelsea were held to a goalless draw in the previous league fixture, and all eyes will be on Pogba. Will Mourinho select him? If he does, will the midfielder turn up? The supporters will eagerly await to answers to both of those questions.
United's last trip to this ground saw a dull 0-0 score line play out, with Pogba especially poor. Yet he still had everyone onside thanks to his heroics a few weeks earlier, which saw a two-goal deficit overturned at the Etihad to beat rivals Manchester City 3-2.
That good will was still in full force a couple of months ago, with fans excited to see the World Cup winner return to Old Trafford. Mourinho never lasts more than three seasons at a club, so if there were issues between them, it made sense to rally behind Pogba, with his long-term future in Manchester more important than appeasing the manager.
However, the player has lost some support with his behaviour in the opening weeks of this season, and it's understandable why Mourinho feels hard done by.
Over the summer, Mourinho was asked about Pogba's success for France when he has largely struggled in a United shirt. The manager, as always, took a ridiculously defensive approach to his response and arguably didn't give the player the praise he deserved.
However, since then, Mourinho couldn't have done more to build bridges, clearly acknowledging how important an in-form Pogba could be to his team. He's repeatedly sung Pogba's praises, leapt to his defence when people have criticised his inconsistency and named him as captain in Antonio Valencia's absence. But maybe the damage had already been done and it was too little too late from the manager, so Pogba has thrown it all back in Mourinho's face as a result.
Following United's win on the opening day of the season, the midfielder stopped in the mixed zone to talk to journalists, something he rarely if ever has done before, to reveal he would be fined if he spoke about how he really felt. This brought unnecessary extra pressure to the club and manager.
In United's 3-2 defeat against Brighton, Pogba spent the match lobbing the ball about the pitch to nobody, jogging around, shooting from miles away and getting nowhere near the goal, and misplacing simple passes. This wasn't a totally unfamiliar display from the midfielder, but the timing of it, following his comments after Leicester, didn't sit well with plenty of fans.
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To then admit that his attitude wasn't right in his post-match interview just added insult to injury.
Pogba then spent the international break allowing speculation over his future to thrive, with him even suggesting that a January move may be on the cards, committing himself for certain only for the next few months.
In United's 1-1 home draw against Wolves, it was Pogba who lost possession in the centre of the pitch after mucking around on the ball and then jogged back, before watching the unmarked Joao Moutinho equalise from the edge of the box.
For the supporters who had already lost faith in Mourinho, they will still cling on to the belief that Pogba's only problem at United is the manager, and that deep down he loves the club and wants to stay. They will be desperate to see him boss the midfield against West Ham and stick two fingers up at the increasingly unpopular manager, who is already starting to look like he's on borrowed time.
If playing for a different coach, maybe the real Pogba would be on show. Some would argue the blame for the midfielder's failings land firmly at Mourinho's doorstep. But then again, the moment Mourinho's replacement said or did something the midfielder didn't appreciate, would we see him spit his dummy out again?
Chances are neither Mourinho nor Pogba will be at the club next season, so time spent arguing over whose side the supporters should take is likely a waste. While neither is likely to admit it, they have more in common than they would let on, with both of them self-centred, petulant and only at the club for their own personal gain.
Pogba can use the club as a stepping stone to Barcelona, while Mourinho's ego was satisfied by finally being appointed to the job he had always longed for with the hope it would springboard him back in to being relevant.
The only real losers here are the supporters, who will find themselves back to square one, with the manager and player who were supposed to guide their return to the top of the table failing to deliver. Yet for many fans, they can hardly bare to think that far ahead, with the outcome so depressing, so their attention firmly on the hope they will leave London with the three points on Saturday.