Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Wayne Rooney left in shadows as Manchester United are spot on

Man Utd 4 Fenerbahce 1

By Ian Herbert

Published 21/10/2016

Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba (R) and Manchester United's English midfielder Jesse Lingard (L) celebrate after Pogba scored their third goal during the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Fenerbahce at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 20, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba (R) and Manchester United's English midfielder Jesse Lingard (L) celebrate after Pogba scored their third goal during the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Fenerbahce at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 20, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba (R) and Manchester United's English midfielder Jesse Lingard (L) do a celebration dance after Pogba scored their third goal during the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Fenerbahce at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 20, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba (R) doing a celebration dance with Manchester United's English midfielder Jesse Lingard (L) after scoring their third goal during the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Fenerbahce at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 20, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Manchester United's Paul Pogba (second left) dances with Jesse Lingard after scoring his side's third goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 20, 2016. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba (L) hugs Manchester United's Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (R) after the final whistle in the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Fenerbahce at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 20, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Paul Pogba of Manchester United celebrates after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Manchester United FC and Fenerbahce SK at Old Trafford on October 20, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20: Juan Mata of Manchester United wins a penalty as he is brought down by Simon Kjaer of Fenerbahce during the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Manchester United FC and Fenerbahce SK at Old Trafford on October 20, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20: Anthony Martial of Manchester United after scoring his team's second goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Manchester United FC and Fenerbahce SK at Old Trafford on October 20, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba (R) scores their first goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Fenerbahce at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 20, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Manchester United's Spanish midfielder Juan Mata (R) is fouled in the area by Fenerbahce's Danish defender Simon Kjaer (L) to concede Manchester United's first penalty leading their first goal during the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Fenerbahce at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 20, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFFOLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Fenerbahce's Simon Kjaer brings down Manchester United's Juan Mata inside the box, resulting in Manchester United's first penalty during the UEFA Europa League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday October 20, 2016. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Fenerbahce's Slovakian defender Martin Skrtel (L) challenges Manchester United's English striker Wayne Rooney (R) during the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Fenerbahce at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 20, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Robin van Persie of Fenerbahce is closed down by Chris Smalling of Manchester United during the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Manchester United FC and Fenerbahce SK at Old Trafford on October 20, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho (left) greets Fenerbahce manager Dick Advocaat before the UEFA Europa League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. PA
Fenerbahce's Slovakian defender Martin Skrtel warms up before the UEFA Europa League group A football match between Manchester United and Fenerbahce at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 20, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Robin van Persie of Fenerbahce warms up prior to the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Manchester United FC and Fenerbahce SK at Old Trafford on October 20, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Robin van Persie of Fenerbahce warms up prior to the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Manchester United FC and Fenerbahce SK at Old Trafford on October 20, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
A view of the Sir Alex Ferguson Statue prior to kickoff during the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Manchester United FC and Fenerbahce SK at Old Trafford on October 20, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
A general view of the stadium prior to kickoff during the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Manchester United FC and Fenerbahce SK at Old Trafford on October 20, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho takes part in a press conference at their Carrington base in Manchester, northwest England, on October 19, 2016 ahead of their UEFA Europa League group A football match against Fenerbahce on October 20. AFP/Getty Images

There was a wonderful, sentimental moment at the end, when Robin van Persie stepped in ahead of Luke Shaw to convert a cross and put a ball into an Old Trafford net once again, while Sir Alex Ferguson, watching with affection, smiled and clapped. Van Persie underplayed the celebration out of a respect for the place he this week called "home".

It didn't have the slightest significance on the course of a night on which Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba stamped their authority, easing United towards what looks like a two-way fight with Feyenoord to win Europa League Group A.

But the moment was sustaining all the same.

Hard to believe that we have not even counted out 18 months since Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie last appeared on a football field together, at West Bromwich Albion on the day when Manchester United's 1-0 defeat was part of a deepening malaise.

It was with a mood of celebration that the Dutchman was welcomed back in Fenerbahce colours, to the club he left in such a hurry, infuriated when Louis van Gaal said he had doubts and determined to take the first ticket out of town.

But the occasion showed how quickly the flame is extinguished in a player. Rooney and van Persie both led their team's lines and were spectral figures as they did so.

Footage of the last time Wayne Rooney faced Fenerbahce was playing on a continuous loop on Manchester United's in-house television station before the kick off: September 2004, of course, and that debut when the boy, short cropped hair and baby face, scored a hat-trick and one of the newspaper chroniclers declared of him that "the Messiah has come to Manchester".

His world has turned abruptly. Rooney's first United start since a League Cup tie at Northampton last month hardly came with the message that the big man was back.

Jose Mourinho stationed him at centre forward, a position he cannot conceivably hope to retain against more serious competition than this.

That left him marooned between the twin pillars of Dane Simon Kjaer and a masked Martin Skrtel. There was no way over them and, on the evidence of Skrtel reaching out a foot to calmly dispossess the striker 20 minutes in, no way of accelerating around them either. But the 30-year-old's marginal place was most evident when two penalties were awarded in a three-minute period just after the half hour.

Somehow, it seemed out of the question that Rooney would step up for either, though those two goals would have put him on the brink of history, one goal behind Sir Bobby Charlton's record tally of 248 for the club.

Pogba struck the first, right-footed to Volkan Demirel's right; Anthony Martial the second, same foot, same place. Rooney ambled up with congratulations at 2-0 but it didn't look like his heart was in it.

It was left to others whose futures have looked in doubt to demonstrate to manager Jose Mourinho that they have a little more football left in then.

There certainly didn't seem much hope for Juan Mata in that respect when the new manager arrived, though he was the creator of much that was good in what United did. The way he drew down an imperious 40-yard ball from Michael Carrick provided a moment of touch and class utterly missing from Monday night's Chelsea-esque physical stalemate at Anfield. It drew a clumsy foul by Kjaer which brought the first penalty.

Mata provided the incisive pass at pace which drew the second penalty, too. Martial, the recipient of the ball, was bundled down from behind by Sener Ozbayrakli. The third goal belonged to the new guard. Rooney sent a slightly misdirected pass behind Jesse Lingard who teed it up for Paul Pogba's 30-yard rocket shot. The Turkish side had next to nothing to offer. David de Gea was called upon rarely, blocking the ball with his knees after Souza had committed rashly to challenge him and teed up a low shot.

But the game was effectively over by the interval and Lingard barely needed to celebrate after he had guided in a fourth from just outside the area three minutes after the half time interval. Rooney could claim a contribution, ferrying Pogba's pass across the face of the area and into his compatriot's path.

Van Persie had done barely more than spin a shot wide before he scored.

It was the Dutchman who took the applause at the end, departing to the same rendition of his name that he was treated to in the three seasons when he was celebrated here.

Rooney has given them 12 years but he is disappearing without an ounce of pity. He's played the club for new contracts twice. Supporters have long memories in these parts.

MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea, Darmian, Smalling (Rojo 45), Bailly, Shaw, Carrick, Pogba (Fosu-Mensah 75), Mata, Rooney, Lingard (Depay 66), Martial

Unused subs: Ibrahimovic, Rashford, Romero, Fellaini

FENERBAHCE: Demirel, Kaldirim, Kjaer (Emenike 45), Topal, Souza, Alper, Van Persie, Ozbayrakli, Sen (Köybasi 69), Neustadter, Skrtel

Unused subs: Civelek, Fabiano, Koca, Stoch

Man of the match: Paul Pogba

Match rating: 7/10

Belfast Telegraph

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph