Manchester: Paul Pogba cast aside criticism of his recent performances by delivering a reminder of his talent on Thursday, scoring twice in Manchester United's 4-1 win over Fenerbahce in the Europa League.
The France midfielder has struggled to justify his world-record price tag of $116 million since returning to Old Trafford from Juventus in August, with Jose Mourinho unable to find the best position for Pogba in United's midfield.
More displays like this and the critics will disappear.
Pogba marked a dominant all-round performance by converting a penalty to put United ahead before producing the highlight of the game, a 25-meter curler into the top corner in first-half injury time to make it 3-0.
"Two days ago, he was the worst player of the Premier League and 48 hours later he is phenomenal," Mourinho said sarcastically. "He needs time. To be in Italy for four or five years and come back to the Premier League, I wasn't expecting him to click his fingers and get back his intensity."
Anthony Martial also scored from the spot, three minutes after Pogba's penalty, and Jesse Lingard made it four goals in an 18-minute span with a low drive from outside the area in the 48th.
It was a timely result for United, which was accused of being negative and too defensive in a 0-0 draw at Liverpool in the Premier League on Monday. This matched its biggest win of the season.
There was room for sentiment at Old Trafford, with the home fans applauding the consolation goal scored by former United striker Robin van Persie in the 83rd. The Dutch striker was at United from 2012-15, helping the team win its 20th and most recent title in 2013, so no wonder his name was sung throughout the stadium after his close-range strike.
Wayne Rooney failed to get in on the scoring act in his first start in five games after being dropped as he struggles for form, but he performed well and linked play with midfield runners. He gave up penalty-taking duties, an unselfish act perhaps to give Pogba the chance of a goal to boost his confidence.
United moved onto six points, the same as Feyenoord after three games in Group A.
Fenerbahce may partly blame the performance on its chaotic buildup to the match. The airplane carrying the Turkish team to England on Wednesday had to make an emergency landing in Hungary after a bird strike cracked the windshield.
The journey lasted around 12 hours, causing Fenerbahce to miss training at Old Trafford.
Here's a look at other matches in the third round of group games in Europe's second-tier club competition:
SHAKHTAR DONETSK 5, GENT 0
Shakhtar had five different scorers — Viktor Kovalenko, Facundo Ferreyra, Bernard, Taison, and Maksym Malyshev — in a win that kept the team on maximum points after three games in Group H.
Kovalenko got the Ukrainian team rolling with a 40-meter strike in Lviv as Shakhtar went five points clear in the group.
Schalke, a 1-0 winner at Krasnodar, and Zenit St Petersburg, which rallied to beat Dundalk 2-1, are the other teams to have a maximum nine points so far.
ROMA 3, AUSTRIA VIENNA 3
An entertaining draw in the Italian capital was preceded by brief clashes between Vienna fans and police outside of a hotel in Rome where the Austrian supporters were staying.
Also, a bus full of Vienna supporters was stopped by police earlier in the day and high-grade fireworks and flares were confiscated, plus a banner that read "UEFA Mafia," according to the ANSA news agency.
On the field, Dominik Prokop and Olarenwaju Kayode scored in the final eight minutes as the Austrian side battled back for a draw that leaves the teams tied on five points atop Group E.
INTER MILAN 1, SOUTHAMPTON 0
Inter finally has points in Group K, beating Southampton with a 67th-minute goal from Antonio Candreva from the team's only shot on target at San Siro.
Inter stayed in last place in the group but at least has revived its chance of qualifying for the last 32. It will come as a relief for coach Frank De Boer, with the team languishing in midtable in Serie A
Southampton, in good form in the Premier League, wasted a string of chances — many coming in the latter stages after Marcelo Brozovic was sent off in the 77th for two bookings.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Oct 21, 2016 09:06:32 IST