Paul Pogba full of praise for Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney after penalty gesture

by Leo Nieboer


Paul Pogba was full of praise for Wayne Rooney after the Englishman stepped aside to let him take a penalty against Fenerbahce in the Europa League on Thursday night.

A sumptuous ball from Michael Carrick found Juan Mata in the box, who was then barged over by Simon Kjaer, giving Manchester United a chance to take the lead in the 31st minute.

Pogba asked Rooney if he could take the penalty and the Englishman, who let Zlatan Ibrahimovic take a spot-kick against Southampton back in August, was happy to step aside.

Speaking after the game, Pogba, who duly scored the penalty, expressed his gratitude towards the Englishman.

“It’s Wazza or myself [to take the penalties] but I told him I wanted to take it and he let me take it,” he said.

“So I’m very happy to score that penalty and from a player like him, the captain Wayne Rooney, to let me take the penalty is a big respect so I’m very glad for that.”

Rooney’s willingness to let both Pogba and Anthony Martial pull rank in the penalty pecking order could indeed be seen as a sign of generosity. A selfless gesture, perhaps, designed to hand some confidence to younger players in the nascent stages of their careers at Old Trafford.

The more likely reality, however, is that Rooney’s immediate deflecting of penalty responsibility acts as a potent sign of his new, dramatically reduced role in this Man United side.

There was a time where every penalty automatically belonged to the captain – no questions asked. Now, with Rooney being slowly but surely brushed to one side by Mourinho, reduced to the role of token squad player, bigger, stronger, more confident players have emerged from his shadow, serving to accentuate the pervasive notion that Rooney’s days at the Theatre of Dreams are numbered.

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