Solskjaer defends penalty policy after Pogba miss proves costly
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not believe Manchester United’s spot-kick situation needs addressing despite Paul Pogba’s penalty miss costing his side victory at Wolves.
Fresh from opening their Premier League campaign with an impressive triumph against Chelsea, United hit the road looking to avoid a third Molineux loss in five months.
Solskjaer’s side were vastly improved from those 2-1 losses in the FA Cup and Premier League earlier in the year, but it could have been even better than Monday’s hard-fought 1-1 draw.
Ruben Neves’ stunner cancelled out a fine Anthony Martial opener and eyebrows were raised when Pogba stepped up to take the spot-kick he won, rather than last week’s penalty scorer Marcus Rashford.
Rui Patricio saved the France midfielder’s thumping effort – his fourth failed penalty since the start of last season – and United great Gary Neville questioned why there had been an on-pitch discussion about the taker.
“This is a Manchester United penalty, this is not tombola,” the former defender said on Sky Sports of that conversation, but Solskjaer downplayed the issues after confirming both Pogba and Rashford are the designated penalty takers.
Asked whether he needed to address penalties, Solskjaer said: “Not at all.
“The two of them are confident and good penalty takers and I’ve been in that situation myself, gone up and missed a penalty for Norway.
“When there’s two names there, it’s the one who’s the most confident and Paul has scored so many before, so absolutely no problem.
“It doesn’t have to be (one taker), no.
“Because sometimes in a game you do grow in confidence. Sometimes ‘I don’t want to take it today because I had a bad day’.
“Absolutely no problem with players walking up and saying, ‘this is mine’.”
Pogba pulled his shirt over his head at the full-time whistle, knowing this was a great opportunity to win at upwardly mobile Wolves.
“First half today was very much ours I felt,” Solskjaer said of the United performance.
“Then the first 10-15 (minutes) of the second half was poor and then we got back into the game again, so I am very pleased.
“They’ve learnt today. They gave a couple of sloppy transitions away, counter-attacks, because we passed it – we were too eager to play the pass through.
“Sometimes one extra pass before we play the killer pass… but we’re improving all the time and we will improve a lot because the boys want to learn, want to improve, which is evident from the first game to now. We’ve only improved.”
Wolves counterpart Nuno Espirito Santo was pleased to see his side emerge from this hard-fought encounter with a point, especially given they are juggling the opening Premier League fixtures with Europa League exertions.
Neves was among nine changes from the win against Pyunik last week and scored an exquisite leveller to send Molineux wild.
But elation temporarily turned to frustration as referee Jon Moss pointed to his ear as the video assistant referee checked the goal, with chants of “f*** VAR” echoing around the ground before the equaliser was given the green light.
“It was a very, very good goal,” Nuno said. “Ruben kicked the ball well, put it out of the reach of the goalkeeper. Just there, spot on. Very good kick.”
Quizzed about the amount of time it took to award it, the Wolves boss said: “That’s what is worrying me.
“What I am afraid of is will we will be afraid to celebrate a goal? This is energy at Molineux, the sound, this atmosphere – we cannot lose, we cannot lose.
“They have to find a solution for it. Please do it.”