Mourinho: Pogba can become complete midfielder at Man United
MANCHESTER -- Jose Mourinho has hit back at Ryan Giggs' suggestion that Paul Pogba should be given more freedom in the Manchester United team while insisting the Frenchman can become a complete midfielder.
Giggs claimed this week Mourinho could get more out of Pogba if he played in a three-man midfield alongside more defensive-minded players Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera. Wayne Rooney also claimed Mourinho has not used Pogba properly.
Mourinho, however, insisted at a news conference on Friday the 24-year-old will always have to balance the defensive side of his job with his desire to score and create goals.
He said: "I had a few laughs over the past week because I heard, I watched, I had a chance to read a few things and I'm not English but I understand English enough to understand what I want to say with 'box to box.'
"But with some comments from important people in football I got a little bit confused because for me 'box to box' means 'box to box' and means you have to be good in this box, you have to be good on this road and you have to be good in that box.
"'Box to box' to play free of defensive duties, that's not 'box to box.' That's a box in the box and stay in the box and doesn't move from the 'box to box.'
"I got a bit confused. I think this country produced a lot of amazing 'box to box' players, I had the pleasure to coach some of them but I think nowadays with some pundits, some agents, some family members, I think the concept of 'box to box' is changing a little bit.
"I think now it looks like we are going to a different concept of 'box to box.' For me Paul is a midfield player. He's not a left-back, he's not a striker so when people say what's his best position for Paul to play -- Paul is a midfield player.
"It depends on the tactical system the team plays. You can play with two, with one, play with three. But he will always be a midfield player. It doesn't matter the tactical system the team plays, Paul is a midfield player.
"But then so many opinions, and we are in a world of opinions, and people can get a little bit confused but between me and Paul there is no confusion. He is a midfield player and that's it.
"And as a midfield player, it's difficult to find a midfield player with more potential than Paul has because Paul has everything."
Pogba was left out of the team for the 2-0 win over Huddersfield at Old Trafford last weekend but is expected back for the trip to St James' Park -- a place where Mourinho has never won a Premier League game -- to face Newcastle on Sunday.
Eric Bailly and Daley Blind are still sidelined with ankle problems but Zlatan Ibrahimovic is nearing a comeback after returning to training this week.
Mourinho added: "Paul had a very professional behaviour and this week was not different to what Paul is every week.
"Paul is a good professional, Paul works well, Paul likes to train. I never had one single problem with him regarding his professionalism because he really is a very good trainer, one of the guys who likes to train, enjoys to train."
Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.