Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Manchester United 1
Paul Pogba cost Manchester United two points last night as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
After Anthony Martial had put the visitors ahead midway through the first half, Ruben Neves levelled with a spectacular effort ten minutes after the break, his stinging shot going into the net off the crossbar and requiring VAR to conform its validity.
Pogba then had the chance to put United ahead when he was fouled in the Wolves area by Conor Coady on 67 minutes.
The Frenchman fluffed three Premier League spot-kicks last season but that didn’t deter him, despite the presence of Marcus Rashford, who had scored a penalty against Chelsea on the opening weekend.
Pogba struck his shot well, but Wolves keeper Rui Patricio guessed correctly, leaping low to his right to deny the United midfielder.
In a game of few chances it was a crucial miss and according to The Sun, United fans vented their anger at Pogba with “vile racist abuse and death threats on social media”.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was philosophical when asked about Pogba’s miss, explaining that he has no issue with Pogba and Rashford deciding which of them feels comfortable about taking the penalty.
“They are the two designated penalty takers,” he said. “The two of them are confident and good penalty takers. When there are two names there, it’s the one who is the most confident [who takes it].
“Paul has scored many before so there’s absolutely no problem. Sometimes in a game you grow in confidence, sometimes [you think] ‘I don’t want to take it today because I had a bad game’. I’ve absolutely no problem with players walking up and saying ‘this is mine’.”
That didn’t cut much ice with the pundits. Former Chelsea striker Chris Sutton described it as “weak management” from Solskjær.
Sutton said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “It is the job of the manager to designate. That is a huge moment. United could have won the game.
“You can’t say, ‘I’ll leave it down to the players’. I like Ole but that’s weak management.
“Rashford may have missed as well, but we’d have understood because he took the last one. He shouldn’t be allowed to make that decision himself. It wouldn’t be allowed under someone like former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.”
Former United defender Gary Neville echoed those sentiments on Sky Sports, saying: “Why is there a debate on who takes the penalty? There should never be a debate.
“Pogba has missed four in the league since the start of last season. You’d think he has had his chance…
“This is a Manchester United penalty, this isn’t a tombola, this is not under-fives football on the playground.”
Other than Pogba’s miss, and Neves’s glorious strike, there were few talking points in the game. Martial’s goal was the only shot on target in a first half that featured only three efforts. The last time a Premier League match had so few attempts on goal in a half was 2003-04.
“The first half was a mature performance,” was Solskjaer’s interesting take on the first 45 minutes, which is more than can be said for United’s penalty arrangements.
Today’s back pages: Paul Pogba and Man Utd pay the penalty