Money matters to United’s American owners – and watching a man named the most marketable sportsman on earth marginalised by Mourinho was never going to go down well.
Pogba was miserable and wanted out, which United always insisted they would never countenance. But they couldn’t sit by and watch him depreciate before their eyes.
If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is to be named permanent manager at the end of the season, his role in returning Pogba to his finest form – as well as significantly increasing his market value – will be key factors.
The same can be said of his effect on Marcus Rashford and Victor Lindelof. But Pogba is the headline story.
He will be the first name on the team sheet when Liverpool head to Old Trafford on Sunday – the man Solskjaer has built United’s resurgence on.
And he’s been suitably rewarded with the 25-year-old scoring nine and providing six assists in United’s run of 11 wins from 13 games under their interim manager.
The Norwegian has demonstrated a lightness of touch where Pogba is concerned that Mourinho seemed unwilling or unable to do.
It’s not that Mourinho didn’t try to coax the best out of the club’s £89m record signing. He named him captain in an attempt give him added responsibility, as well as provide a youthful bridge between the management and the players.
But he promptly stripped him of those duties – infuriated by Pogba’s overindulgence in the middle of the pitch and his outspoken ways off it.
The midfielder’s demand to ‘attack, attack, attack’ ultimately proved the final straw.
When Mourinho subsequently questioned him over an Instagram post following United’s League Cup defeat to Derby in September, it only gave rise to the belief that the then-manager had lost touch with the modern generation of player.
Wi-Fi issues had meant a video of Pogba laughing in an executive box with teammates was posted belatedly. The confusion led to an unseemly altercation in front of rolling television cameras at Carrington.
There are no such issues with Solskjaer – even if he did remind Pogba of his responsibilities on social media after he posted what appeared to be a gloating response to the announcement of Mourinho’s sacking in December.
Solskjaer has indulged Pogba in a manner akin to Sir Alex Ferguson’s treatment of Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ferguson was a strict authoritarian, but appreciated certain players benefited from looser rein and the rewards on the pitch justified such an approach. Under Solskjaer, Pogba has been allowed to focus on what he does best.
The Frenchman has appreciated a tactical shift, which sees Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera feverishly carrying out defensive duties and allowing him to operate in more advanced areas. He’s not a passenger, but it is a freer role than he was ever afforded under Mourinho.
That midfield trio has been the heartbeat of United’s spectacular turnaround. Matic looks re-energised and more of a creative influence despite providing so much cover for Pogba. Herrera meanwhile is thriving as a result of a sustained run of games.
Pogba describes him as a ‘dog’ because of his boundless energy and tenacity. The Spaniard is another whose value will have risen significantly following Solskjaer’s arrival.
United were already in talks over a new contract, with his current deal due to expire at the end of the season. But his form over the past two months has done nothing to weaken his bargaining hand, with a three-year deal on the verge of being completed.
Pogba’s red card against Paris Saint-Germain in Solskjaer’s only defeat in the job was a potentially combustible moment. But the interim manager’s decision to back him in public while having a private conversation behind the scenes was rewarded with Pogba’s man of the match performance against Chelsea on Monday when he made one and scored one in the 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
It’s not hard to imagine Mourinho’s reaction in the same situation.
But Solskjaer is not Mourinho – and Pogba is anything but the player he was under United’s former manager.