Jose Mourinho attempted to lighten the load on under-performing Paul Pogba ahead of his Manchester United return by saying a huge price tag does not mean extra responsibility.
Scrutiny over form and happiness has been compounded by sickness during a difficult period for the France international.
Mourinho last week admitted Pogba’s form had dropped but angrily dismissed “lies” suggesting a fractured relationship with the midfielder, who would have started Saturday’s FA Cup win at Huddersfield but for illness.
The 24-year-old has recovered in time for Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg at Sevilla, where suggestions that this was the kind of stage where the club-record signing should prove his worth did not sit well.
“I don’t think it’s fair to speak about the responsibilities of a player,” Mourinho said.
“I don’t even like the fact that the player that cost X millions doesn’t have the same responsibility as the player that cost three times X.
“I think the responsibility is for everyone, so I don’t like that kind of approach. I understand for you (the media), but not for me.
“When I decide a team to play, I don’t look to the age, I don’t look to the salary, I don’t look to the transfer fee, because I think that’s not also fair.”
Mourinho indicated that Pogba is fit to start in Spain after taking a full part in training on the eve of the game, when the United boss took the unusual step to move the open part of the session to show him in competitive action.
“Well, I open the training session today and I open in a period where normally we don’t open,” Mourinho said of the 15 minutes of training that UEFA make clubs open up to the media.
“We normally do it in the warming up and in the first simple drills of the training session, and this time we did it for quite a long time and in the last period, so we could see the players in a competitive situation.
“When a player is in that competitive situation, it is because the players are normally ready and without problems.
“So, you could see that in training some people that didn’t play against Huddersfield with problems, like Pogba, (Antonio) Valencia, (Marcus) Rashford, (Ander) Herrera.
“So, I think in an objective way you could look at it.”
The returning outfield quartet travelled with the squad to Andalusia, as did goalkeeper David De Gea after being rested at Huddersfield.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Marouane Fellaini and Phil Jones remain absent for the last-16 encounter – the final hurdle before Mourinho starts dreaming of Champions League glory.
“I won with Porto when Porto was a very young team, a very inexperienced team at this level, with so many players playing Champions League for the first time in their careers,” the two-time Champions League winner said.
“And then I won with Inter, which was exactly the opposite. It was a team with lots of players over 30, with great experience in high-level football but not successful until then.
“I think this squad is more in the middle of it. We have some players with previous experiences, we have some others without experience.
“But I think in the end, I normally say that Champions League dreams start around the quarter-finals and not yet.
“In the last 16, it still looks a long way to go.”