Paul Pogba showed glimpses of his true quality as he netted a stunning goal as part of a double in Manchester United’s 4-1 Europa League hammering of Fenerbahce on Thursday.
The Frenchman led the way for United in an emphatic win to bounce back from individual criticism attracted after a poor showing in Monday’s 0-0 draw at Liverpool, while Robin van Persie netted a late consolation on his return to Old Trafford.
United took a while to get going, though, as they struggled to craft opportunities before Pogba converted a penalty just after the half-hour mark and fellow Frenchman Anthony Martial followed the midfielder’s lead with a second spot-kick in quick succession.
Pogba effectively wrapped things up for United with a spectacular strike just before the break after good work from Wayne Rooney – the captain starting for the first time since the EFL Cup win at Northampton Town on September 21.
The pair combined again at the start of the second half to set Jesse Lingard up for an excellent fourth.
Van Persie’s late goal drew a huge round of applause from the crowd, including the watching Alex Ferguson, but it mattered little in the context of the match as United cruised on to six points from three matches in Group A with one of their more convincing wins under Jose Mourinho.
Fenerbahce’s compact defence and United’s lack of cutting edge resulted in a dearth of opportunities until a fatal error in the 31st minute.
Juan Mata brilliantly brought down Michael Carrick’s long-range pass in the area and the off-balance Simon Kjaer tripped the Spaniard, with Pogba coolly dispatching the spot-kick into the left side of the net.
And United had a second penalty just three minutes later, as Martial drove into the Fenerbahce box and went down under pressure from Sener Ozbayrakli before slotting away himself.
The visitors almost gave themselves a lifeline shortly after – Souza beating Matteo Darmian only to see David De Gea block his effort from 10 yards.
But United took full advantage of that let-off and grabbed a third on the stroke of half-time.
Kjaer was culpable again, as Rooney intercepted his misplaced pass and crossed to Lingard, who showed great awareness to tee up Pogba for a marvellous first-time finish into the top-left corner from 20 yards.
United added further gloss to the score just two minutes into the second half. Pogba found Rooney on the edge of the box and the striker laid the ball off to Lingard, who lashed a fine 25-yard effort into the bottom-left corner.
Van Persie almost pulled one back after an hour, but his trademark curling left-footed strike flew just wide of De Gea’s right-hand post.
Mata should have given United a fifth 12 minutes from the end when played through by substitute Memphis Depay, but was thwarted by Volkan Demirel.
Van Persie did eventually get his goal, stabbing in from close range after a teasing Emmanuel Emenike cross to spark a huge ovation, but it did nothing to stop the hosts cruising to a comfortable win.
Key Opta stats:
– United have scored 10 goals in their last two European home games against Fenerbahce, with Rooney having a hand in five of them (three goals, two assists).
– Fenerbahce are without a goal in their last four European games against English opposition, conceding 14 goals.
– Including qualifiers, United are unbeaten at Old Trafford in 13 European matches (W10 D3).
– Lingard has scored and assisted in a single game for the first time in his United career.
– Pogba scored two or more goals in a game for the first time since November 2014 (v Lazio).
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