Pogba and Mourinho fail to explain Rooney penalty mystery as Michael Owen rips into the Man United skipper
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho declined an invitation to explain why club captain Wayne Rooney failed to take either of his side’s penalties in their 4-1 Europa League win against Fenerbahce at Old Trafford.
Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial took the United spot kicks despite the fact that Rooney was recalled to the starting line-up, stepping back from his familiar duty as a first choice penalty taker on a night when lead striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not play.
Needing just three goals to equal Bobby Charlton’s all-time United scoring record and two to equal Ruud van Nistelrooy’s club record of 38 goals in European competition, there was confusion over why Rooney was not handed spot kick duties.
“It’s Wazza or myself, I told him that I wanted to take it and he let me take it,” Pogba told BT Sport.
“I’m very happy to take the penalty. From a player like him, Wayne Rooney, the captain, just to let me take the penalty, it’s a big respect, I’m glad for that.”
The uncertainty was not cleared up by United boss Mourinho in his post match interview with BT Sport, as he appeared to suggest he was content to allow his players to make a decision over who took the penalties.
“Pogba probably didn’t want to repeat and take the second penalty a few minutes after the first,” he stated. “Martial took the second penalty and it is not a problem for me because I always give the freedom for the guys to make a decision on the pitch.”
Former United striker Michael Owen was less polite, as he ripped in to Rooney for his failure to assert his authority to take at least one of the spot kicks.
“It grates with me a bit. Twelve years ago, this lad played a game against Fenerbahce in his first game for Man Utd,” Owen told BT Sport.
“He ripped the ball out of Ryan Giggs’ hands to take the penalty. He was telling senior players around here what to do and he went and scored a hat-trick.
“Now he is giving up the chance to score a penalty? He is a goal scorer, he has to be a goal scorer. If he scores those two penalties, he is ahead of Ruud van Nistelrooy in United’s European scoring charts. He is just one behind Bobby Charlton’s all-time record.
“He has to take it. I remember when he was younger, he was nasty and he wanted it so badly. He gets a penalty and he should be all over it. I just can’t believe he has handed it over.”