Jose Mourinho has lately sought to give the impression that he is at peace with the world at large: the best-behaved manager in the technical area, the friendliest to fourth officials, the most respectful of spirited opposing teams.
There was even an affectionate hug for his old enemy Rafael Benitez after Manchester United lost to Newcastle on Sunday evening.
Given Mourinho’s well-documented propensity for conflict you did wonder what room this new, balanced persona left for his more aggressive energies. It now looks as though they are being channelled into a confrontation with the club’s biggest star.
For the second time in three league matches, Paul Pogba was substituted with United trailing in a game they went on to lose. These should be the moments when United would look to a player of Pogba’s ability to drag them back into the contest, but against both Tottenham and Newcastle, Mourinho decided that his team were better off without their most expensive player.
Yesterday Pogba was taken off immediately after Newcastle had scored what proved to be the winning goal and he sat watching the rest of the match with an agonised expression.
Asked about Pogba’s performance after the match, Mourinho replied “I do not analyse individual players,” but he had already pointed the finger at Pogba without mentioning his name.
“I remember clearly without television, just with my memory from the touchline, I remember clearly a Newcastle player jumping and two of my players looking at him and staying on the floor.”