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On Soccer: Manchester United Tops Liverpool, Without Artistry and, Significantly, Without Pogba

He has been substituted, and then dropped. He has seen his place come under threat from Scott McTominay, until recently a relatively unheralded graduate of the club’s academy. He has been lectured on the field and, with just the thinnest of veils, criticized off it.

Various anonymous sources on both sides have been cited in a bid to work out exactly what the problem is: a power grab on the part of Mourinho, or a shortcoming on Pogba’s? In some interpretations, the player ought to buckle down and do what is asked of him. In others, the manager needs to find a way to entice the best from his star. There is a lingering worry, stoked by those with an interest in it being stoked, that perhaps a common ground will not be found, and that at some point the player and the manager will have to part ways.

In light of what happened in Pogba’s absence against Liverpool, it is tempting to wonder if the reality is more banal. Mourinho, necessity being the mother of invention, deployed McTominay and Nemanja Matic in central midfield, a towering barrier in front of his defensive line.

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