PREMIER LEAGUE

Mourinho takes aim at Manchester United penalty record

The former United boss again brought up the Red Devils' spot-kick fortune, but stats from around Europe suggest that it is part of an underlying trend.

Mourinho takes aim at Manchester United penalty record
IAN WALTON Pool via REUTERS

José Mourinho has again aimed a dig at former club Manchester United, who recently broke a Premier League record for most penalties awarded in a single campaign. United’s 14th penalty of the season was slotted home by Bruno Fernandes to give them the lead over fellow Champions League contenders Leicester City.

Bruno has "had about 20" penalties at United, quips Mourinho

Mourinho spoke to Portuguese publication Record about his compatriot’s ability from the spot: "Bruno came in, was fit, played very well, improved the United team and also proved to be a great penalty taker, one of the best in the world, because he had about 20 to score."

It is not the first time that Mourinho has made a point to mention United’s penalty record, notably doing so after one was given against his Tottenham Hotspur side back in June. Speaking after that game, he said: "We know Manchester United has an incredible record with penalties given this season and we knew that everything in the box was very dangerous for us."

When United equalled the Premier League record for penalties against Aston Villa a few weeks later, Mourinho again pointed to their fortune from the spot as a reason for their superior goal-scoring record, saying: “United’s 13 penalties is a help. It’s a help.”

Penalties on the rise across Europe

But despite Mourinho’s protestations, Manchester United are far from the only side to enjoy a bumper year of penalties this season. The introduction of the Video Assistant Referee in a number of major European leagues has led to a considerable increase in the amount of penalties given.

The 2019/20 La Liga season saw 149 penalties awarded, beating the previous record of 140 set in the 1989/90 campaign. Interestingly, VAR was involved in the awarding of 35 penalties and helped to overturn 13, meaning that the video referee was responsible for an additional 22 spot-kicks.

In Italy there has been even more of an upturn, with 178 penalties given in 362 matches so far, meaning an average of nearly one every two games. That comfortably beats the Serie A record of 140 from 1949/50 with two rounds of fixtures remaining in the current season.

The top two goal-scorers in Italy have both benefitted from the increase in spot-kicks and could still overtake Robert Lewandowski in the race for the European Golden Shoe. Current leader Ciro Immobile has scored 14 of his 34 goals from the penalty spot, while 12 of Cristiano Ronaldo’s 31 strikes have come from 12 yards.

The impact of VAR on penalties goes back to the 2018 World Cup, which was the first major international football competition to use video technology. That tournament saw record numbers of penalties awarded (29), penalties scored (22) and penalties missed or saved (7). England captain Harry Kane was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new trend and scored three penalties on his way to the Golden Boot.