SEVILLE, Spain — Jose Mourinho insists there will be no extra pressure on Paul Pogba’s shoulders as he faces his first Champions League knockout clash with Manchester United.
The midfielder missed the win over Huddersfield on Saturday because of illness, but trained at Carrington on Tuesday and has made the trip to Spain ahead of the Champions League round-of-16 first leg tie with Sevilla.
The Frenchman cost a then-world record £89.3 million when he returned to Old Trafford from Juventus in 2016. But Mourinho insists it is not the 24-year-old’s responsibility to be United’s talisman in the Champions League because of his hefty pricetag.
“I don’t think it’s fair to talk about the responsibility of players,” he told a news conference on Tuesday. “I don’t even like the fact that a player who costs X millions doesn’t have same responsibilities of a player that cost three times X million. The responsibility is for everyone.
“I understand for you but not for me. I don’t look to the age, to the salary, to the transfer fee.”
Pogba was a late withdrawal from the squad to face Huddersfield on Saturday after being struck down with illness. On Tuesday afternoon, he trained alongside Marcus Rashford, Antonio Valencia and Ander Herrera, who also missed the 2-0 win at the John Smith’s Stadium. But asked directly on Tuesday whether Pogba is fit enough to start against Sevilla, Mourinho gave a cryptic answer.
He said: “Well I open the training session today and I open in a period where normally I don’t open. We normally do it in the warming up and in the first simple drills of the training session and this time we did it for quite a long time and the last period, so you could see the players in a competitive situation and when a player is in that situation is because the players are normally ready and without problems.
“So you could see that in training some people that didn’t play against Huddersfield with problems, like Pogba, Valencia, Rashford, Herrera, so I think in an objective way you could look at it.”
Mourinho is back in the city where he won his first European trophy after guiding Porto to victory over Celtic in the 2003 UEFA Cup final. He has won the Champions League twice with Porto and Inter Milan — two teams who, like United this season, were not among the favourites — but the 55-year-old insists it is still too early to say whether this team can win it.
He added: “I told before any team that reach the quarterfinal has a chance. “I never thought I was going to win it with Inter or Porto, it’s when you reach the quarterfinal that you think something can happen, the dynamic can change.
“The normal tendencies of some clubs are more ready to win it but when you reach the quarterfinals is when any team can feel anything can happen. This step of going from 16 to eight teams is a very important step.”
Rob is ESPN FC’s Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.