London: Paul Pogba could be out of action for a “few weeks” after suffering a suspected hamstring injury that took the shine off Manchester United’s successful return to the Champions League, manager Jose Mourinho said.
United, who missed out on qualification for Europe’s premier club competition last season, coasted to a 3-0 victory on Tuesday, with goals for Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford.
But, making his debut as United captain, Pogba lasted just 18 minutes of the Champions League Group A game before being forced off by an apparent left hamstring injury, with Fellaini taking his place.
The 24-year-old Frenchman reportedly left Old Trafford on crutches.
“I don’t know (what the severity is),” Mourinho told MUTV, the club’s in-house television station. “I just know from experience it’s a muscular injury. In my experience, muscular injury stops you from playing for a few weeks, I think.
“It looks for me too (like a hamstring injury) but I haven’t spoken yet to the medical department.”
But the United boss said he had midfield options for the weekend’s Premier League clash with Everton, including Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, Fellaini and Nemanja Matic.
France will be hoping Pogba is fit in time to play in the crucial World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria on October 7.
Goals from substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Marcus Rashford sandwiched Romelu Lukaku’s first goal in the competition proper as United opened their Group A campaign in straightforward fashion on Tuesday.
“I think for these teams that you are speaking of and for the Real Madrids, Barcelonas and Bayerns, the Champions League starts in February,” Mourinho told reporters at Old Trafford.
“Now is just the warming up. And in February, when us English teams are trying to survive after the winter period, they are fresh and ready after these warm-ups.
“For them this is a warm-up. I think we are in the second level. The second level is, let’s qualify, let’s make the points to qualify for the knockout phase. When we do that, let’s enjoying playing against the big guys.”
Having spent last season picking a path to glory in the Europa League, which enabled them to qualify for the Champions League, this was United’s first game in the top continental competition since December 2015.
An injury to Paul Pogba aside, United could scarcely have asked for a more straightforward reintroduction to a tournament they have won three times.
But Mourinho criticised his players for easing off after Lukaku’s 53rd-minute header put them 2-0 up, accusing them of playing “PlayStation football” decorated by unnecessary “flicks and tricks”.
Pogba left the stadium on crutches after being forced off in the 18th minute.
“I don’t know, obviously, but by experience, just by looking and feeling, it’s a hamstring,” Mourinho said. “Big, small, I don’t know.”