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Mourinho backs Pogba after Scholes taunt

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Crystal Palace players celebrate the opening goal scored by striker Wilfried Zaha. AFP

BOURNEMOUTH (Agencies) – Jose Mourinho has defended Paul Pogba after the Manchester United star was branded “disrespectful” by Paul Scholes.

United legend Scholes claimed Pogba’s lacklustre display in Sunday’s shock defeat against lowly West Bromwich Albion showed a lack of respect for Mourinho.

Scholes’ criticism came amid growing speculation that Mourinho is ready to sell Pogba following the France midfielder’s inconsistent form over the last two seasons.

But Pogba produced one of his better performances in United’s 2-0 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday as he set up Romelu Lukaku for the second goal at Dean Court.

Asked to comment on Scholes’ criticism of Pogba, Mourinho said: “I don’t agree. I agree that it wasn’t a good performance at all (against West Brom); with that I agree.”

Mourinho made seven changes from the West Brom loss as he axed some of his under-performing players and rested others for tomorrow’s FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham.

His decision to keep Pogba in the starting line-up raised questions about the chances of the midfielder retaining his place at Wembley.

But Mourinho, who has dropped Pogba several times this season, offered an enthusiastic review of his man of the match display on the south coast.

“Top performance. Top performance. Obviously the performance against City was special, coming with two goals,” he said.

“But this performance was a very similar level. So top performance. He can do it.”

United’s return to winning ways was not enough to ease Mourinho’s frustrations over Sunday’s woeful loss to West Brom.

That result gifted the title to Manchester City, but Mourinho believes he can catch the champions next season.

“My face is still the face of last Sunday and not the face of somebody who just finished a game and a win,” Mourinho said.

“I still live with the emotions of last Sunday.

“I know how to win titles. In case some of you guys don’t know I won eight championships in four different countries, and three in this country.

Paul Scholes blasted Paul Pogba’s display last weekend.AFP

“I know why you win, I know why you don’t win.

“OK, no doubts about City’s quality, and that in any circumstances they would win this title because they are the better (team).

“But we could have, perfectly, I would say 10 more points than we have.”

Crystal Palace may have moved to six points above the Premier League relegation zone but tomorrow’s visit to Vicarage Road to face Watford could be crucial to Roy Hodgson’s side’s survival hopes.

While the Hornets are in a relatively comfortable 12th place, they are only three points above Palace and are smarting from a stoppage-time defeat at Huddersfield last week.

Javier Gracia’s team have not won since a March 3 victory over bottom club West Brom and history is against them when facing the Eagles.

Watford are winless in their last six home meetings with Crystal Palace in all competitions, losing three of those games, and they have not beaten the London side since a 2-0 victory in the second-tier Championship in 2009.

All of which makes this a winnable game for Roy Hodgson’s Palace whose in-form winger Wilfried Zaha will pose serious questions for the Watford defence.

Palace have a relatively easy run-in with a trips to Leicester City and Stoke City before a final day home fixture with bottom club West Bromwich Albion.

West Brom, who upset Manchester United at Old Trafford last week, have another tough test when they face Liverpool tomorrow.

The Reds are unbeaten in their last nine Premier League meetings with West Brom although they were held to a goalless draw at Anfield this season.

Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah is only one goal away from equalling the record for the most goals scored in a 38-match season, jointly held by Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez with 31.

Sunday sees a derby with West Ham United, who have fought their way out of the relegation zone, facing an Arsenal team that may have their focus on next week’s Europa League semi-final, with Atletico Madrid.

Champions Manchester City host Swansea City having secured the title last week while seventh-placed Burnley hope to continue their push towards Europa League qualification at struggling Stoke City.

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