Jose Mourinho wants Paul Pogba to forget his world-record price tag and show Manchester United his true quality.
A summer of discussion bore fruit five weeks ago when the open secret of the 23-year-old’s Old Trafford return from Juventus was made official.
United paid an eye-watering €105 million euros (£89 million) to bring back a player who left them four years earlier in search of first-team football, with a further €5m (£4.25m) due if certain targets are met.
It is a remarkable, record-breaking fee that sees Pogba stand alone as the world’s most expensive player ever — a price tag that appeared to weigh heavily in United’s disappointing back-to-back defeats to Manchester City and Feyenoord.
Mourinho had expected the Frenchman’s tail-off after his bright start to life at United, and now wants him to block out the background noise that comes with his status.
“The world-record player is always a question that will be open until somebody breaks the record,” Mourinho said. “I think there are clubs that paid 20, 30, 40 [million pounds], which is a bigger deal than what Man United paid for Paul because you make a relation between what you pay and the club revenue.
“You realise that other clubs paying 20, 30, 40 is a much bigger thing than what Man United did, and I just want Paul to forget that and to play his football.
“Euro final, no preseason, holidays, come back — it’s normal that in the first week he had the very good impact in the first game.
“It’s normal that after the first game he has a little decrease, but I am full of trust with him because I know the player he is.
“I know that he is a very good guy with a lot of ambition, so the form will come naturally and will come with the team. The team improves, Paul improves. No problem.”
Pogba’s form tallies with United’s own drop-off after their winning start to life under Mourinho came to a shuddering halt.
They head to Watford on Sunday looking to avoid a third straight defeat, which could see them fall six points behind Pep Guardiola’s City after just five matches.
“You are right, it is early days,” Mourinho said. “I prefer to be four in front than four behind, that’s obvious, but as you are saying it’s very early days.”
Asked, though, if Watford was the biggest match of his short reign given the events of this week, Mourinho said: “Watford? I think Man United has to show every game, every game, every competition.
“The club is too big, the supporters are too passionate for the professionals not to feel that every game is a very important game, so I don’t think they should need a defeat or in this case two defeats to try to give everything they have to give.
“It should belong to them and that is what I expect from them — it is that on Sunday we will try to win the match, normal.”
A good start would certainly help United’s chances in Hertfordshire, given the sloppy and unwieldy first-half displays that played a large part in their downfall in both the Manchester derby and their Europa League opener.
“Look, I always say that the best motivation you can have is your own motivation,” Mourinho added. “If you need other people to motivate you … I always feel that my job is that I am an extra source of motivation, but the motivation belongs to the players.
“And if the players at this age need … the great life, the money, they have to do what they want, I think they shouldn’t need an extra source of motivation.
“The motivation belongs to themselves so I believe in that, I believe that on Sunday they will try to win the match, try to give absolutely everything and it will be just by them to try to help.”