Jose Mourinho has launched an impassioned defence of Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, calling for greater respect and suggesting that criticism of the world's most-expensive footballer is motivated by nothing other than jealousy.

Pogba has shown just fleeting glimpses of his undoubted ability since returning to Old Trafford from Juventus in a record £89m ($108.5m) deal last summer, with supporters, pundits and ex-players alike all queuing up to offer their critique of a player whose penchant for social media antics and striking hairstyles tends to see him regularly fall foul of football's traditionalists.

Such growing criticism was evident again on Monday night (13 March) after Pogba, who has scored seven goals and provided five assists in 40 appearances across all competitions in his first season back in the Premier League, turned in another ineffectual performance during a 1-0 FA Cup quarter-final defeat at Chelsea.

Mourinho immediately sought to counter that latest condemnation by rather bizarrely insisting that the confident 23-year-old was "by far the best player on the pitch".

Addressing the issue again during a press conference held in advance of United's Europa League last-16 second-leg decider against Russian outfit FC Rostov, the self-proclaimed 'Special One' again pointed to financial envy as the key factor behind unflattering assessments of Pogba during a stinging attack on his critics.

"I feel that the world is losing values and we all know that and envy is coming into certain levels," Mourinho told reporters. "I'm scared for especially the next generation if things go in this direction. Envy is everywhere.


"It's not Paul's fault that he gets 10 times the money that some players, some very good players, got in the past. It's not his fault that some of the pundits are in real trouble with their lives and they need every pound to survive and Paul is a multi-millionaire. It's not his fault."

He added: "I think he deserves respect. I think his family deserve respect. He's a kid that comes from a working family, a family with three boys and I'm sure they needed a lot of food on that table every day because they are big giants. So I'm sure that the mum and the dad had to work hard for many, many years for them.

"He is a kid that came to Manchester as a teenager, that fought for his career here, that was not afraid to move and to go to another country and to look for better conditions for him. A kid that reached the top of the world with his work, nobody gave him anything. I'm very happy with Paul. The club is very happy with Paul and I think also a good thing is that because of his personality, he doesn't give an ass what people say."