Jose Mourinho has stripped Paul Pogba of the vice-captaincy but the Manchester United manager denied claims he has fallen out with the midfielder.
The news came on a dramatic day at Old Trafford, where the hosts deservedly bowed out of the Carabao Cup to Derby on penalties as a cloud over their club-record signing hung overhead.
In the build-up to the third-round tie it was claimed that Mourinho had told Pogba that he would not captain United again, delivering the message in front of the squad.
It was reported that the decision was taken as the midfielder did not embody what the club is about, seemingly taking the tense relationship between the manager and their star turn to a new low.
Mourinho confirmed after an 8-7 shoot-out loss to Frank Lampard’s Derby that he had made the decision to take the vice-captaincy off Pogba, but tried to claim there was no problem between them.
He said on Sky Sports: “The only truth is that I made the decision of Paul not to be the second captain any more but no fall-out, no problems at all.
“The same person that decides that Paul is not the second captain anymore is the same person who decides that Paul was the second captain. Myself. I am the manager, I can make these decisions. No fall-out at all, no problems at all, just one decision that I don’t have to explain.”
Mourinho said shortly before kick-off that Pogba and others had been “rested” for the Derby game as he made a host of changes. Pogba, wearing a white hooded top, was seen in the Old Trafford stands with fellow United players during the match.
Sources close to the club were not surprised by the latest development, which will only increase speculation as to whether Pogba will stay at Old Trafford.
The France international captained the side in the Premier League openers against Leicester and Brighton in the absence of Antonio Valencia, just as he did in last week’s Champions League win at Young Boys.
Pogba scored two and set up the other in the 3-0 victory in Switzerland, only to under-perform on Saturday’s return to league action against Wolves.
The 25-year-old was dispossessed in the move that led to Joao Moutinho’s equaliser, with the midfielder saying afterwards that United should “attack, attack, attack”.
Those comments are understood have got under Mourinho’s skin, while Pogba took umbrage at the way they were reported.
“Some people make polemic even from ‘good morning’ to create drama,” Pogba posted on Twitter. “Big Pogoodmorning everyone hope u get it twisted.”
Mourinho did not attend the post-match press conference on Tuesday, but Pogba is sure to dominate the agenda in the build-up to United’s trip to West Ham this weekend.