Manchester United’s Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho (R) chats to Manchester United’s French midfielder Paul Pogba during a team training session as part of a media open day at the club’s training complex near Carrington, west of Manchester in north west England on May 19, 2017, ahead of their UEFA Europa League final football match against Ajax. Paul ELLIS / AFP
Jose Mourinho has praised Paul Pogba for his response to his father’s death as he prepares to recall him for Manchester United’s final Premier League game of the campaign.
Mourinho has promised to make sweeping changes for Sunday’s fixture against Crystal Palace, ahead of United’s Europa League final date with Dutch side Ajax in Stockholm on Wednesday.
But the United manager has confirmed the world’s most expensive footballer will be in the starting line-up despite the death of his father this week.
“Paul Pogba is fine,” Mourinho said. “A strong guy, strong mentality. He’s learning how to live after his father passed away, but he is strong.
“He knows that he needs to play on Sunday because he hasn’t played or trained for a long time and he needs these minutes on the pitch, so he plays against Palace.”
Pogba has not appeared for United since helping them reach the Europa League final in a home draw with Celta Vigo 10 days ago and Mourinho clearly feels the French midfielder needs to play after attending to his family tragedy.
Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini, who injured his hamstring in the midweek draw at Southampton, is not expected to play as he battles to be fit.
And defender Chris Smalling will also be rested against Palace to ensure he recovers from a minor muscular problem in time to face Ajax.
Mourinho has also called up promising young defender Tim Fosu-Mensah, who has not played since injuring his shoulder in the Manchester derby at the end of last month.
“Chris Smalling has a problem, but a small problem that I think is no problem at all for next week,” said Mourinho.
“It’s a problem for the weekend but not for the final. Marouane Fellaini is the question mark; we wait for today’s scans, we decided not to do it yesterday. Again, his feelings aren’t bad, but let’s wait.
“Tim Fosu-Mensah plays on Sunday and, if the reaction is good, and if he manages to play the game without problems, he’s a new option for us for the final.”
– Dynamic –
However, Fosu-Mensah, 19, will not be the only youngster involved in the squad on Sunday, with Mourinho even calling up 16-year-old midfielder Angel Gomes, who was named as the club’s Youth Player of the Year this week, among a long list of untried talent.
“You will have the two goalkeepers, Joel Pereira and Kieran O’Hara,” said Mourinho.
“We will have Demi Mitchell, Scott McTominay, Josh Harrop, Matty Willock, Angel Gomes and Zachary Dearnley. I think that’s it. Plus Tim Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe, so lots of them.
“I think one young player can play in the middle of a good structure, a dynamic structure, an experienced structure, yes. But as for lots of them together, I think no.”
Crystal Palace avoided a nerve-ridden final day of the season by beating Hull last weekend to guarantee their place in next season’s Premier League.
Palace manager Sam Allardyce insists, though, that his side has no shortage of incentives at Old Trafford.
The Eagles could finish anywhere between 16th and 11th which could make a difference of up to £10 million in prize money to the club and Allardyce knows that will have an impact on his transfer spending.
“The budget will get bigger if we can go up a couple of places,” Allardyce said.
“The chairman has pointed that out to me like every chairman I’ve worked for.
“So the higher you can finish in the league, the bigger and better the prize money so if we can get a result at Old Trafford, then that will be fantastic.
“It’s pretty significant isn’t it? For the players as well because they’ve got good bonuses for the position they finish in the league so they are well aware of what it means.”