Pogba, Rashford And Manchester United’s Penalty Debacle: It’s A Numbers Game

The Red Devils have squandered their last two chances from the spot.
14:06, 30 Aug 2019

So far this season, the spot-kick aficionado has been spoilt.

Both the Community Shield and the UEFA Super Cup were taken to penalties, eight have been given in the first three weeks of the Premier League, a smattering across the three divisions of the Football League, plus the 15 games in the first two rounds of the Carabao Cup that were taken to a shootout.

Roughly, there have therefore been around slightly upwards of 200 different spot-kick takers for English sides even at this early stage of the season.

Yet three figures have dominated the conversation when it comes to discussing penalty-kicks; Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford and their Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Of those eight EPL penalties, three have been awarded to 13-time champions Manchester United, each in a different gameweek. The Red Devils, however, have only managed to convert one.

United started their campaign in a similar fashion to the 2018/19 season; on both occasions at Old Trafford their scoring - and ultimate victory - has been initiated with a penalty, Rashford tucking the ball away past Chelsea to begin the 4-0 rout a year after Pogba had done the same in the third minute against Leicester City.

In subsequent games of United’s 19/20 calendar, both Pogba and Rashford failed to take advantage of penalty awards meaning dropped points in a draw away at Wolverhampton Wanderers and a shock home loss to predicted relegation-battlers Crystal Palace, their first win at the Theatre of Dreams in 30 years.

The lack of decisiveness by the gaffer to categorically designate attracted the predominant criticism, the most scathing in the set-up being described as “a tombola or a game for under-fives on the school field” by former Red-turned-pundit Gary Neville.

For a team that has played more competitive games in the upper echelons than any other since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, it is somewhat understandable that Manchester United hold the record for failing to score more penalties than any other team; there have been 37 missed opportunities from 144.

Interestingly they are ranked 12th on penalties conceded with 42 across the 27 years; Arsenal top the rankings ignominiously with 72.

Man Utd’s currently tally of three awarded, one scored, two missed/saved already equals the entire tally of the 2017/18 season. They then followed up last year under Jose Mourinho and then Solskjaer, and, topping the stats for most awarded for the first time since 2011/12, with United converting nine of 12 spot-kicks.

A season in which they have achieved a 100% conversion rate having been awarded five or more penalties in a single Premier League season has only occurred once, in David Moyes’s 2013/14 campaign (5/5). All but one was taken by United’s record-goalscorer Wayne Rooney, striking more penalties than any other Man Utd player with a 71.4% success rate from 20 out of 28.

Pogba has now missed seven out of 11 penalties for a 64% conversion rate. One more missed penalty from the talented Frenchman would also put him on par with Man City’s Riyad Mahrez who has scored only seven of his 12 when stepping up to the plate.

The great Eric Cantona retains the best % record for penalties for Manchester United in the Premier League, scoring 14 out of 16 (87.5%), and even when the Frenchman failed he made up for it; Cantona only ever missed twice in the league, against Blackburn Rovers and former club Leeds United.

On both occasions, he went on to score later in the match.

The only flawless player in Premier League history (to have taken ten or more penalties) is Yaya Toure who converted 11 out of 11 while at Manchester City. Matthew Le Tissier however is held up on a pedestal having slotted away an incredible 25 out of 26, for a 96.2% success rate, at Southampton.

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