Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer "has decided that Marcus Rashford will be the club’s designated penalty taker" moving forward, following Paul Pogba's missed penalty against Wolves.
That's the latest from Neil Custis at the Sun on Wednesday. It's a believable top line, but nonetheless mixed in with some incredible sensationalism. The miss has dominated the headlines since the match on Monday night, with Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville particularly taking issue with how the pair decided who was taking the penalty.
Sky dedicated a huge chunk of their post-match coverage to the quiet conversation Rashford and Pogba held on the pitch, with Neville himself initially taking issue with Pogba's desire to make sure it was his responsibility. It's triggered an incredible overreaction in the wider press in the hours following the game.
So much so, that 90min has been unsure whether to even cover the ongoing fallout considering Ole Gunnar Solskjaer immediately put the matter to bed after the game - as it been so ridiculous. But taking a moment to dismiss some of the pathetic fantasist reporting feels like an important step.
This has all come about because Pogba failed to score – to say he ‘missed’ actually seems harsh given that it was a well struck effort matched by a very good save – to put United back ahead against Wolves, a goal that could potentially have been the winner.
In a separate matter, the Frenchman was subjected to vile racist abuse online by ‘fans’.
Rashford, on the other hand, had scored a penalty a week earlier in the 4-0 Premier League thrashing of Chelsea. Many presumed he was therefore the designated taker because of that and it has been erroneously suggested by some that Pogba took the Wolves penalty off him.
What happened on the pitch at Molineux on Monday night was…well, nothing.
Rashford and Pogba had a quiet conversation that lasted all of a few seconds, resulting in the former tossing the ball to the latter and no visible ill-feeling from one to the other. Rashford even gently patted his teammate on the chest in approval.
The media circus has seen it a different way.
The Daily Mirror labelled it a ‘debacle’. It wasn’t.
The Sun called it a ‘penalty farce’. It also wasn’t. The tabloid also described it as a ‘disagreement’. It still wasn’t. It was referred to as an ‘on-field squabble’. It definitely wasn’t.
Ex-United midfielder Paul Ince used the words ‘Oscar-winning theatrics and dramatics’ in a column for Paddy Power. It absolutely wasn’t that either.
Can't quite believe we're still talking up Paul Pogba & Marcus Rashford's quiet conversation over who would take a penalty, and calling it a 'squabble' and a 'disagreement'.— Scott Saunders (@_scottsaunders) August 21, 2019
Anything to sell stories eh?
None of those descriptions even come close to the non-event that transpired. How people can see something happen and completely disregard facts in order to pursue a salacious but false version of events is incomprehensible, but, honestly, not all that surprising.
United legend Neville caused an unnecessary stir and scandal by labouring the point in a post-match debate, but let’s face it - this wouldn’t have been an issue but for a very good save from Rui Patricio.
Solskjaer actually said after the game that both Rashford and Pogba are designated penalty takers, preferring to leave it up to the players on a kick-by-kick basis.
“The two of them are the designated penalty shooters. It's up to them there and then to decide that 'this is mine',” he explained. "Sometimes players feel they are confident enough - Paul has scored so many penalties for us, today Patricio made a good save.
The Sun alleges that Solskjaer took a different approach behind the scenes – though it seems quite unlikely given what he said didn’t exactly seem like a cover up and what we all saw with our own eyes. Yet he supposedly ‘blasted the pair’ and ‘stripped’ Pogba of penalty duty.
You can already imagine the next ‘scandal’ when none of that is true and Pogba is lining up his next penalty after another quiet discussion with Rashford in a few weeks’ time.