Pogba channels Rooney
When Fenerbahçe last visited Old Trafford, it was 2004 and a trio of devastating Wayne Rooney strikes, on the then 18-year-old's debut, gave a club-record signing instant lift-off.
Until last night Paul Pogba had made a less explosive start as the current most expensive player in the history of Manchester United (and the world) but yesterday, with Fenerbahçe back in town, he showed what he can do in the 4-1 win.
He may still be adjusting to the tighter spaces of the Premier League, as José Mourinho noted afterwards, but against European opposition there was a swagger in his play with two goals – one of them a stunning strike from the edge of the D – and a brilliant 50-metre crossfield ball in the second half.
Pogba is not the shy and retiring type and afterwards shrugged off the notion his price tag might be a burden.
"I don't really listen to what is around me, I have to be focused on the pitch," he said. "I can be the cheapest player in the world and if I do great on the pitch that is what matters. Today I am just enjoying myself with the team, we had a great performance, scored a lot of goals and I just enjoyed it."
There's been no end of talk this autumn about what the future holds for Rooney, 31 next Monday, yet on his first start for a month, the captain showed he can still influence a game. He won the ball and delivered the cross in the lead-up to Pogba's second goal and provided the lay-off which teed up Jesse Lingard to make it four.
He also showed his appreciation of the individuals around him when ignoring the crowd's cry of "Rooney, Rooney" and letting Pogba take the first penalty and Anthony Martial the second.
Pogba was grateful for the generosity shown, saying: "He said, 'Do you feel it?' I said, 'Yeah'. He said, 'OK, you take it'. He's a player everybody has to respect – just the way he let me take the penalty, it is something crazy. It's Wayne Rooney, he's the captain and the crowd are shouting his name. We listen to a lot of things about him, but he's still playing for the team, still running, still playing with all his heart for this club."
Mata makes his mark
If the two best players for United in Monday's goalless draw at Liverpool were Ander Herrera and David de Gea, last night was the turn of the club's other Spaniard, Juan Mata, to remind us what he can do. He was involved in the preamble to both penalties, killing the ball with a typically classy touch before being brought down for the first; then feeding Martial before he was fouled for the second.
Though a forgettable night for Fenerbahçe, for one visiting player there was a moment to remember forever. Robin van Persie scored 30 goals in Sir Alex Ferguson's final, title-winning, season. As the chants of his name when he took a first-half corner at the Stretford End underlined, United fans had not forgotten. Their appreciation was writ large seven minutes from the end when Van Persie put the ball past De Gea and the home crowd rose in applause. They were even chanting his name at the final whistle.