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Why not Rashford?! Time for Solskjaer to take 'selfish' Pogba off penalty duty

22:11 BST 19/08/2019
Paul Pogba Manchester United 2019-20
The midfielder has now squandered four spot-kicks since the start of last season and his profligacy cost his side two points at Molineux

Manchester United missed the chance to make an early statement in the Premier League by drawing 1-1 at Wolves on Monday night.

On any other night it may have been considered a reasonable result but after Paul Pogba’s latest penalty failure, there can be no doubting this was a wasted opportunity.

The midfielder has missed four spot-kicks since the start of last season – no other player in the Premier League has squandered as many – and, just eight days on from Marcus Rashford coolly firing home 12 yards out against Chelsea, one might have expected the England man to be given another go after Pogba was fouled by Conor Coady in the 68th minute with the scores level.

But up stepped the Frenchman, and as Rui Patricio reached up to keep out his powerful effort, it was hard not to attribute the decision-making before the effort itself as a key component in United’s failure to collect three points.

Indeed, former United defender Gary Neville was bemused by the whole situation.

"Before he took the penalty I was fuming," he admitted on Sky Sports. "However, we have looked back at the penalty last week that Rashford took against Chelsea, and Pogba had a long chat before.

"I don’t like it. Why is there a debate on who takes a penalty? Pogba has missed four in the last 12 months – so you would think he’s had his chance now. Rashford scored last week, [he should] take the penalty. But there wasn’t a leader on the pitch.

"Something is not right there. Initially. I was fuming with Pogba. Typical you (Pogba), you’re selfish. Why are you even thinking of taking a penalty off a player?"

Neville's frustration with his old side's inability to pick up what would have been a valuable victory was understandable. For long spells of the match, United were in complete control.

With Wolves putting numbers behind the ball, the Reds were slick with their passing and patient in their attacking approach. They didn’t force Rui Patricio into a catalogue of saves, but they always looked likely to do enough to win the game.

Unsurprisingly, it was a counter-attack which led to United opening the scoring. Luke Shaw found Jesse Lingard, who took a couple of touches before playing in Rashford and the No.10 in turn fed the ball into the path of Martial. The Frenchman’s first-time finish was rip-roaring, high and emphatic into the top of the net beyond Rui Patricio.

For the rest of the half, United continued to play their football and force Wolves to retreat, wrapping up one of their better 45-minute showings away from home in quite some time.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka was particularly impressive, once more leaving many fans in awe of his performance and his speedy transition to life as a Manchester United player.

But when they came out after the interval there was a different edge about the home side and United found themselves on the back foot more often.

Soon after Raul Jimenez’s flicked header had somehow stayed out after striking both the far post and David de Gea’s torso, Ruben Neves stepped up to deliver an unstoppable dipping effort just beyond the reach of the Spaniard and into the top corner.

Not even a VAR check was going to halt the cacophonous celebrations around Molineux, and they were cheering ever louder following their goalkeeper’s save from Pogba's penalty.

United again returned to the probing that had asked questions of Wolves throughout the opening 45 minutes but their big opportunity had come and gone.

Perhaps the call made on the future penalty-taker should come from inside the manager’s office rather than between a pair of eager players seconds before the shot is taken.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the man who should be making the decision and while he has become known for giving Pogba a lot of creative leeway, this is one time he has to risk his star player’s wrath.

Rashford, not Pogba, should be United’s man for the spotlight from now on.