MANCHESTER -- Jose Mourinho's relationship with Paul Pogba at Manchester United had deteriorated to such an extent during his final weeks as manager at Old Trafford that the Portuguese told at least one member of his squad to "stay away" from the midfielder, sources have told ESPN FC.
Mourinho and Pogba had become increasingly detached and distrusting of each other since the player was substituted during a 2-0 defeat against Tottenham at Wembley in January, but by the time Mourinho was sacked on Tuesday, the disaffection had spread throughout the dressing room.
While Mourinho refused to comment on reports earlier this month that he had described Pogba as a "virus" following the 2-2 draw against Southampton at St Mary's, his opinion was made clear when he urged one of his senior players, during a one-on-one meeting, to avoid being influenced by the France international.
Unsurprisingly, the message from Mourinho was quickly relayed to the dressing room, where the depth of ill-feeling towards the manager was such that sources have told ESPN FC that "90 percent" of the players had lost all respect for the former Chelsea and Real Madrid coach due to his critical treatment of them, both in the dressing room and in public.
Had Mourinho remained in charge, several players were prepared to seek a move away from Old Trafford next summer, but sources said that the mood has now changed significantly since Tuesday's sacking and the squad are now looking forward to "enjoying their football and their life again."
Mourinho did not make a final visit to the dressing room on Tuesday after being told by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward that he had lost his job.
A handful of players did visit Mourinho in his office at United's Carrington training ground to wish him well, but while sources said it was an "emotional" morning for some of the club's staff, the mood among the players was upbeat and celebratory rather than one of regret.
Despite the air of negativity around Carrington, and the hostility towards Mourinho, sources said that Pogba, in particular, has worked hard to ensure that the players' discontent has not affected non-playing staff at the club.
On one occasion recently, a high-profile player drove away from the training ground after refusing to do a contractually-obliged interview with a rights holder before a Premier League game. But having been told of his teammate's no-show, Pogba volunteered to take his place to ensure that members of the club's media department did not fall foul of the Premier League's rules.