Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has backed Paul Pogba to score more penalties for Manchester United.
The French midfielder was criticised for taking a spot-kick in Monday’s draw with Wolves, ahead of Marcus Rashford, and then seeing it saved by Rui Patricio.
Pogba has now missed four of his 11 attempts in the Premier League, but Solskjaer said: “I’m sure you’re going to see Paul Pogba score a penalty for Man United again. Definitely.
“Let’s see when we get the next one. We’re practising penalties still and Marcus and Paul are still on them.”
Television pundit and former United player Gary Neville branded the situation “embarrassing” but Solskjaer insisted it had not been Pogba taking the ball off Rashford, with the two men sharing penalty duties.
Solskjaer also defended his own authority, saying: “It’s not that I’ve left it to the players to sort out, we’ve nominated two. It’s not like there’s anarchy and do whatever you want. Last season we had Marcus, Jesse (Lingard), Paul who all scored penalties, probably more as well.
Ole on @PaulPogba: "He's a strong character. When you speak to him he's fine and I just cannot believe we're still sitting here in 2019 talking about these instances." #MUFC pic.twitter.com/CdcczOV5M0— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 23, 2019
“(There’s) absolutely no fighting among them. We’re disappointed that we didn’t win the game but the talk is always more difficult when you don’t get a result.”
Pogba was subjected to racist abuse on social media after the game, and representatives of Twitter are planning to meet officials at United to discuss the situation.
Solskjaer said: “Paul’s fine. Paul’s a strong character and it makes him stronger. I just cannot believe we still sit here in 2019 talking about these instances.
“Social media is a place where, as Harry (Maguire) said, people can hide behind fake identities. I don’t think it’s down to me to change it but we’ve got to do something about it and the authorities have got to do something about these ones that spread this hate.
“You just feel sorry for them really. They must have problems themselves when they have to do this.
“We’re not going to ban our players on social media. We have to spread the good word because it’s so much good we can use social media for but we have to stop those incidents, definitely.”
Solskjaer, meanwhile, declined to respond to Romelu Lukaku’s claims in an interview on NBA player Josh Hart’s LightHarted podcast that he did not feel protected by the club and was made a scapegoat when things were not going well.
“I’m not going to dive into that one,” said the United boss of the former Red Devils striker. “I think that interview was made before the summer when he was a Man United player so I think I’d rather not.”
Lukaku is now an Inter Milan player and he could yet be joined by striker Alexis Sanchez, who is out of the first-team picture at Old Trafford.
The Chilean played in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Sheffield United this week, and Solskjaer said: “There are still talks with some clubs but he played in that game and he played well. He’s working hard and let’s see in September what’s going to happen.”
United will look to get back to winning ways when Crystal Palace visit Old Trafford on Saturday.
The equivalent game last season ended in a goalless draw and saw then-manager Jose Mourinho criticise his players for a lack of heart.
Solskjaer said: “I didn’t watch the game last year, I think we had a game ourselves with Molde, but I heard they had a few counter-attacks, Wilf (Zaha) was close to scoring.
“But pre-season has been very encouraging, team spirit great. We’ve got loads of energy and passion. You can see the way we went about the game against Wolverhampton, I thought our pressing was excellent. We gave them five minutes in the second half, that was it really.
“The engine looks so much better, everyone’s fit, and when you’re physically fit it’s easy to be mentally strong as well.”
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Wales manager Ryan Giggs says Manchester United winger Daniel James is no diver and needs extra protection from referees.
James was booked for simulation on his first United start in Monday’s 1-1 Premier League draw at Wolves, his every touch booed thereafter by the Molineux faithful.
But Giggs said 21-year-old speedster James – who scored on his United debut as a substitute in the opening-day 4-0 win over Chelsea – needs greater protection after being fouled several times at Wolves.
“You’ve seen he gets kicked a lot,” Giggs said after naming James in his 26-man squad for next month’s crunch Euro 2020 qualifier against Azerbaijan in Cardiff.
“Sometimes when you anticipate it, it can look live a dive. The speed he’s going at it can look worse, but I’m not worried about that.
“He gets a lot of stick and referees need to protect him.
“I watched a lot of the pre-season games and he did well as he usually plays on the left.
“It gives me a different option as well if he’s playing his club football on the right. If I want to do that I can.”
While James has settled in well at United following his £15million move from Swansea, Wales’ talisman Gareth Bale has had a difficult summer at Real Madrid.
The 30-year-old forward had a public fallout with manager Zinedine Zidane and was on his way to the Chinese Super League until a lucrative move collapsed at the last minute.
Bale is now back in Zidane’s plans and started Real’s opening league game last weekend, making the first goal in a 3-1 win against Celta Vigo.
“I kept in touch with him (over the summer) to see if he was all right,” Giggs said.
“It was a strange situation but hopefully now it’s sorted out – Gareth stays and plays games.
“It’s obviously positive at the moment, I’m really pleased with the situation and looking forward to meeting up.”
Asked whether Bale’s Wales career would have proved difficult had he moved to China, Giggs added: “It wouldn’t have been ideal.
“It’s a preference for your players to be in Europe with the travelling and the different calendars, but I’d still have picked him.”
Bale will captain Wales in the absence of veteran defender Ashley Williams, who has been left out of the squad as he is currently unattached after being released by Everton in June.
Giggs also confirmed that Bale is Wales’ designated penalty-taker, thus avoiding the situation at his former club United where Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford have taken spot-kicks this season.
Aaron Ramsey has previously taken penalties for Wales – converting efforts in Scotland and Serbia – when Bale has not been on the pitch.
Paul Dummett’s international career looks over after he made himself unavailable for Wales duty, the second time the Newcastle defender has done that by saying he wanted to focus on his club football.
Dummett ruled himself out in May 2017 under previous Wales boss Chris Coleman before returning 15 months later, and Giggs said: “I think that will be it.
“I’m not fussed about that. He’s playing in the Premier League, he’s a good defender, but I’ve got options.”
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The Frenchman’s latest miss proved costly on Monday night as United were held to a 1-1 draw at Wolves, with Pogba seeing his 68th-minute spot-kick saved by Rui Patricio.
Pogba only took the penalty after a discussion with team-mate Marcus Rashford, who scored from the spot for the first time in the Premier League against Chelsea last weekend and is yet to miss a spot-kick in his professional career.
Gary Neville branded the apparent confusion over who should take the penalty “embarrassing”, saying on Sky Sports: “This is a Manchester United penalty, this is not a tombola, this is not under-fives on a school field.”
Neville pointed to Rashford’s success last week and, despite his relative inexperience, the England man might have a better claim to be taking United’s spot-kicks given that Pogba ranks among the worst regular Premier League penalty takers.
After his three misses out of 10 attempts last season, Pogba now has a conversion rate of 63.6 per cent in the Premier League.
Of the 14 current players to have taken at least 10 penalties in the league, only Manchester City’s Riyah Mahrez has a worse return rate, having scored seven of the 12 (58.3 per cent) he has taken.
Everton’s Leighton Baines, now largely a back-up to Lucas Digne but in line to start against Aston Villa next weekend following an injury to the Frenchman, has the best success rate, having scored 20 of his 22 (90.9 per cent) Premier League penalties.
Crystal Palace midfielder Luka Milivojevic is just behind, having scored 19 of his 21 penalties (90.5 per cent).
Pogba is the only current United player to have taken more than 10 Premier League penalties.