HE IS more used to wielding the big stick than the olive branch.
But maybe, just maybe, Jose Mourinho is mellowing a little after all. For the best part of a year, all we have had are grizzles and gripes.
Complaints about what he is lacking. Almost weekly public floggings of one player or another. Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Anthony Martial.
You name ’em, they have all been in Jose’s sights.
None more so than Pogba, either. For the manager, not even a World Cup win was enough to have him gushing over his gifted Frenchman.
MAN UTD 2 LEICESTER 1 Spot on Pogba and Shaw strike to lift gloom around Old Trafford
When he returned from Russia, for Mourinho it was not so much about what he could do to get the same quality product out of Pogba, as what the player should be doing for United.
All this after last season’s fractious relationship, when Mourinho wanted the midfielder to remain in England for treatment and he chose to go to the US to cure a hamstring.
As recently as Wednesday, there were tales of Pogba wanting out and of Barcelona and Juventus all too willing to welcome him. Of course United would never let their biggest star go anywhere, certainly not in this window.
But while there has never seriously been a chance of him being sold, how to get the best out of this mercurial talent is no easy question to answer.
So while the verbal prods and pokes have yielded little reward, fair play to Mourinho for finding another way last night.
OK, maybe a lack of numbers did nudge him towards giving Pogba the armband when he otherwise would not have been given genuine consideration.
But however he got there, and whether he keeps the job when Antonio Valencia is fit, it was a masterstroke which paid off.
Certainly there were as many who expected to see him eased back as a sub as those expecting to see him lead the team out.
But with injuries aplenty, Pogba to his credit had told Mourinho he was ready, willing and able. The manager — to his credit — responded with the captain’s job. Regardless of how the alliance was reached, the dividend was handsome.
Pogba’s first touch was a magnificent crossfield ball which he can deliver, yet so infrequently does in a red shirt.
Pretty much the second was to put the ball in the top corner from a penalty that, albeit the stuttering run was bizarre, the finish was brilliant.
So hats off to Jose for getting such a mature performance off Pogba on top of his goal.
Like when Jamie Vardy made hay of Shaw’s tactical shortcomings and teed up Demarai Gray to very nearly level, Pogba was dishing out the rollicking.
Talking of Shaw, he and Darmian must both have been hoping that their selection last night signalled a clean slate from the gaffer.
Ironically, for Shaw, there were large chunks of the game when he did not exactly enhance his prospects of dislodging Ashley Young at left-back.
As impressive as he can be flowing forwards, Shaw can be full of schoolboy clangers at the other end of the pitch.
Indeed, there were times he left so much space Mourinho was literally hopping around in frustration on the sidelines.
But like Pogba, the olive branch could have led to the turning over of a new leaf. In Shaw’s case a goal that has been four years in the making.
It cannot do his confidence any harm. Nor Pogba’s. And for both performances Mourinho deserves fulsome praise.