Wayne Rooney has suffered a somewhat underwhelming start to the 2015/16 season, and now the English striker will have to deal with the indignity of being last among Manchester United's penalty-takers.
Speaking after United's 2-1 Champions League win over Wolfsburg on Wednesday night, manager Louis van Gaal told BT Sport that Rooney won't be the club's regular penalty specialist, at least for the near future:
The talking point arose after Juan Mata—not Rooney—stepped up to the penalty spot in the 34th minute to tie the match at 1-1. Coincidentally, Mata also had a role in the winning goal, providing the assist for Chris Smalling's tally in the 53rd minute.
"The manager makes a list of penalty-takers and I'm the first right now so I have confidence," the Spanish midfielder said in a post-match interview with BT Sport (h/t Goal's Stephen Darwin).
Van Gaal's decision is certainly defensible when you consider Rooney's record from the spot. In March, the Daily Mirror's Richard Innes crunched the numbers and found the 29-year-old has had a 69 percent success rate on penalties in the Premier League. That was the third-lowest figure among players who had attempted at least 20 penalties.
You do wonder, however, if allowing Rooney the chance to pick up an easy goal might help boost his confidence. He hasn't played all that well this year, and ESPN FC's Alex Shaw was particularly critical of his performance against Wolfsburg:
In terms of the bigger picture, moving Rooney down the penalty-taking list is unlikely to have an impact on the club. Manchester United have a number of talented players who could all excel from the spot—Mata included.
If Rooney is going to overtake Sir Bobby Charlton as the club's all-time leading scorer, it looks like he'll need to pick up his goals from open play.