Man United line up for Brighton as World Cup hero returns to starting XI

Jose Mourinho has turned his tough love approach into undying affection towards Paul Pogba as he captains the side against Brighton.

The Manchester United boss dismissed stories of a bust-up with Pogba by insisting he “could not be happier” with the World Cup winner.

The apparent rift has come against the backdrop of Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola offering him around to some of Europe’s top clubs.

But Mourinho came out fighting after it was reported that he had rowed with the midfielder at United’s training ground, saying he was now happier with Pogba than at any other time since his £89m move from Juventus two years ago.

Pogba will wear the captain’s armband again and United have no fresh injury worries heading into Sunday’s trip to Brighton in the Premier League.

Probable United team (4-3-3)

De Gea; Darmian, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw; Fred, Periera, Pogba; Mata, Lukaku, Sanchez.

Nemanja Matic and Antonio Valencia returned to training on Thursday but are not fit to be selected yet, while boss Jose Mourinho was unclear on the availability of Jesse Lingard.

Ander Herrera, Sergio Romero, Marcos Rojo and Diogo Dalot remain out, but those late back from the World Cup are closing in on full fitness and Romelu Lukaku is set to play up front instead of Marcus Rashford.

Mourinho was particularly impressed that Pogba answered his SOS to play in the opening Premier League game against Leicester after just three days training following his return from his post-World Cup break.

“The truth is we have been together for two years and a couple of weeks and I’ve never been so happy with him as I am now, “he said. “That’s the truth. I cannot demand more from him, I cannot ask more from him.

“He’s working extremely well here but I have to say in his defence: write what you want about him and me, but please don’t say lies, don’t put him in a situation that people can think he’s not a polite, educated guy.

“He has never had a fight with me. We never had a heated exchange of words, everything is respected, I have no problems at all.”

“He came here on the Monday, trained three days, I asked for his support, for his contribution in an important match for us when the team had difficulties. He did it better and for more time than we could expect.”

Mourinho believes Pogba and United’s other World Cup late starters will be in far better condition for the trip to Brighton tomorrow after a full week of training. And he says he won’t castigate Pogba if his performance level dips.

“I am very confident he will play well but if he doesn’t, that’s football," he said. “If his objective is to play for the team, for the fans, he has the right to have a bad match. Everybody has a bad day and has little ups and downs in the performance level.”

Pogba will captain United again at the Amex Stadium but Mourinho says the armband will go back to Antonio Valencia when he returns to the team.

Full squad: De Gea, Grant, Darmian, Shaw, Young, Lindelof, Smalling, Jones, Bailly, Pogba, McTominay, Fred, Pereira, Fellaini, Mata, Lingard, Martial, Sanchez, Rashford, Lukaku.

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