Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho took aim at critics of midfielder Paul Pogba after the world’s most expensive player stoked his side’s Europe League success against Fenerbahce last night with a first-half double.
Pogba, an £89m summer signing from Italian champions Juventus, netted either side of Anthony Martial’s penalty, while Jesse Lingard notched his first European goal and former United striker Robin van Persie netted a late consolation on his Old Trafford return.
Victory propelled United to second in Group A, level on points with Dutch outfit Feyenoord, who beat bottom side Zorya Luhansk 1-0 in Rotterdam.
“Two days ago [after United’s 0-0 draw against Liverpool] he was the worst player of the Premier League, whereas 48 hours later he is phenomenal,” said Mourinho.
“He needs time. I was in Italy, I managed in Italy, I know Italian football, I know the characteristics, the pace, the intensity and to be in Italy for four years and then return to the Premier League, I was not expecting him to get the intensity at the click of a finger. Even the top players need time.”
United opened the scoring on 32 minutes when Pogba confidently dispatched a penalty after playmaker Juan Mata had been bundled over in the box by defender Simon Kjaer.
Moments later, the hosts doubled their lead and again it was from the spot. Martial was impeded by full-back Sener Ozbayrakli before picking himself up and replicating Pogba’s accuracy.
The clash was all but over as a contest on the stroke of half time as Pogba lashed an effort into the top corner from 20 yards after the recalled Wayne Rooney secured possession on the right flank and picked out Lingard, who laid the ball off for the marauding Frenchman.
Just three minutes of the second half had elapsed when Lingard’s low shot from outside the penalty area whistled past Fenerbahce goalkeeper Volkan Demirel.
There was still time for a touch of sentiment as Van Persie converted former West Ham loanee Emmanuel Emenike’s cross from inside the six-yard box – prompting applause from all corners of his former home.