By Simon Peach
Paul Pogba allayed talk of a Manchester United exit on his return to Juventus, with the midfielder insisting he is happy under Jose Mourinho and has no regrets about re-joining the Old Trafford giants.
The 25-year-old has been the subject of intense speculation about his future and happiness since returning from Russia as a World Cup winner.
Barcelona have been strongly linked with a move for Pogba, who has previously done little to quell such talk at a time when his relationship with Mourinho has been heavily scrutinised.
Talk of a rift between the pair intensified when footage emerged of a tense training ground exchange just days after France midfielder was stripped of the vice-captaincy.
Odds tumbled on the club-record signing leaving Old Trafford, but Pogba insisted he remains happy at United ahead of facing Juventus in the Champions League on his old stomping ground.
“Do I look sad? Obviously, yes, I’m happy,” Pogba said with a smile. “Like I said again, I am really happy to come back (to United).
“I was really happy to come back to Manchester United, wearing this shirt, playing for this team because it is a big club.
“But on the pitch, always happy, always with a smile, fighting for my team-mates, fighting for my team, fighting for my club, fighting for the fans.
“That’s all I do and, yes, I am really happy to do that.”
That response was a far cry from the one Pogba gave after the season-opening win against Leicester, when he said he would be fined if he opened up on his happiness.
Disillusionment would be somewhat understandable, having won the World Cup and seen former club Juventus flourish since his 2016 departure, with the way the Italians ran rings around United last month offering another sobering moment.
“Choosing to come back to Manchester United first of all was my choice,” Pogba said.
“And Juventus were playing Champions League and Manchester were playing Europa League, so I knew first of all I wouldn’t play Champions League and I was very happy.
“I made my choice and I don’t regret it at all.
“I know Manchester in the last few years have not been at the top, but I came back just to help the team try to come back at the top, so we are on the way.
“A lot of players came and we have a lot of goals, so for me it’s not strange. It’s a choice and I don’t regret it all.
“I’m very happy to come back to Manchester United, to play, to wear the shirt and everything, and I’m sure we will come back to the best.”
Romelu Lukaku is out of United’s trip to Turin with an injury that could also see the striker miss the derby against Manchester City.
Juventus are sure to provide as tough a proposition as they did a fortnight ago — a match that is followed by the eagerly-anticipated trip to swashbuckling City.
Lukaku has not travelled to Italy due to a “muscle, tendon” issue that leads Mourinho to fear the striker could also absent for the derby.
“Injured for tomorrow and we don’t know for Sunday,” the United manager said ahead of a game when the Belgian’s ability would come in handy, despite his nine-match scoreless club run.
Juventus toyed with Mourinho’s Reds when the sides met at Old Trafford, with Paulo Dybala’s 17th-minute effort securing a win far more one-sided than the 1-0 scoreline suggests.
United were particularly poor in the first half, as they have been disconcertingly frequently.
“But football is 90 minutes and especially when your opponent is strong, if you give 45 minutes advantage or even 20 or even 10, then you have a mountain to climb.
“The good thing is that lately apart from the Juventus match we were strong enough to climb the mountain and change results and win matches in second halves and last minutes.
“But because I think we are speaking about tomorrow’s match, when you play against a super team if you give advantage it’s very difficult to climb the mountain then.”