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.
“Obviously when you are playing in a big club like that there is always talk about this club and we know anything can go on.
“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.”
The mood around Old Trafford has certainly improved recently, so too it appears the one between players and manager.
Pogba and Mourinho said before Wednesday’s Group H match that they have a healthy player-coach relationship, while the 25-year-old insists even being stripped off the vice-captaincy did not cause ructions.
“I just want to play, perform – that’s my job – and give my best for my team and for everybody, for the fans, for the club and that’s it,” Pogba said.
“It didn’t really touch me, it didn’t affect me. Nothing changed, really.”
His unwavering determination for trophies also remains.
Pogba embraces the expectations at United and the “challenger” is desperate to bring major trophies back to Old Trafford, where the recent upturn in fortunes, sparked by the dramatic 3-2 win over Newcastle, has offered a flicker of hope.
“Everybody starts realising that we are Manchester United and obviously we have to play,” Pogba said.
“Before that it was really bad. I think we didn’t have any confidence and stuff like that on the pitch, like altogether we maybe didn’t give enough – something like that.”
“But after this game (against Newcastle) we went to national team, we came back and played very well against Chelsea (in a 2-2 draw).
“I think we had a very good performance, all the team, we all play together. I think that’s what changed and when you play together it’s always easier.”