Manchester United made it two wins from two in the Premier League this season as they completed a 4-0 rout of Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium in South Wales on Saturday.
Paul Clement’s side frustrated the Red Devils for the majority of the game, forcing United to make sideways and backwards passes in their build-up play. The Swans’ gameplan seemed focused on giving very little space for the likes of Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to work their magic.
It wasn’t until the final ten minutes that United showed their true quality, scoring three well-taken goals and exploiting the space that the South Wales side conceded due to them chasing the game at the point.
Patience is a virtue
The Red Devils were really tested by Swansea’s disciplined defensive performance in the first half. United were forced to play in front of the back three, due to the lack of space the Swans’ backline afforded to them.
United were shaky in the opening minutes as Jordan Ayew’s cross came back off the crossbar, but soon enough the Swans’ dominance ended as United took control of the game. Phil Jones came the closest hitting the bar from a Juan Mata corner, and Marcus Rashford also missed a sitter after a mistake from the Swansea defence let him through, but the young forward fluffed his shot after trying to chip Lukasz Fabianski.
Persistence from the away side paid off just on the stroke of half-time when a corner from Daley Blind found Pogba unmarked. The Frenchman headed towards goal, forcing Fabianski into a top save onto the bar, but Eric Bailly was there to convert home, getting his first goal for the club and giving United a vital lead going into the break.
The burgeoning Bailly and Jones partnership
Once again Eric Bailly and Phil Jones impressed at the centre of the defence standing up to the Dangers of Tammy Abraham and the wing play from Swansea’s Kyle Naughton and Martin Olsson.
Both were surely tested by this, and they passed with flying colours standing up well to the bombardment of crosses that came into the United penalty area, also to mention Eric Bailly fantastic challenge on Tammy Abraham in the first half that denied the Chelsea loanee a goal-scoring chance, and also the quick thinking he showed to finish off the Pogba header late on into the first half.
Jones never put a foot wrong the whole game, keeping Abraham and Jordan Ayew quiet. Not really giving him the opposing forwards a chance to settle on the ball or get a shot off, he also made some vital interceptions in the air when Swansea played down the wings more through the wingbacks. By the end of the game, the pair validated Mourinho’s decision to leave £30 million defender Victor Lindelof out of the lineup once again.
Paul Pogba magic
The Frenchman once again was at the centre of everything that the Red Devils were doing going forward. Pogba endured a frustrating first half due to Swansea setting up well to counter United’s attacking talents and protect the space at the back. Towards the end of the first half, Pogba was booked for a poor tackle on Tom Carroll, and then was lucky to avoid being sent off altogether a few minutes later as he brought down Olsson.
Escaping what may have been a second yellow, Pogba played a key part in the first goal, with his header towards goal causing the deflection that would lead to Bailly’s score.
From that point on, space opened up for Pogba to work his magic. Pogba found space in between the lines, proving himself the centrepiece for United’s attacking play by scoring a delightful chip over Lukasz Fabianski. Finally, Pogba played a fantastic pass to Anthony Martial to set up the final goal in the last 10 minutes of the game.
Mourinho will surely be happy with how Pogba has started the season so far. His goal and two assists today is clear proof that Pogba is coming into his element at Old Trafford after a disappointing first season in Manchester.
Finishing with a flourish
Mourinho’s side turned on the style in the last ten minutes, punishing Swansea with the spaces they left open behind them. Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial all got on the scoresheet in the closing stretch to pull away from The Swans, giving the Red Devils an emphatic scoreline and three points to take away with them back to Manchester.
United played fantastic attacking football in the lead up to the goals, with Romelu Lukaku’s being the standout as a great vision from Henrikh Mkhitaryan picked out Lukaku 12 yards out from goal and he made no mistake by putting it past Łukasz Fabiański.
Manchester United had the most goals in the last ten minutes of matches last season, and it seems this feature of Mourinho’s gameplan has carried over to the first two weeks of the new season, with five of their goals coming in the latter stages of games. This was something which United made a habit of during the days of Sir Alex Ferguson’s 25-year tenure at the club, and no doubt many United fans will be delighted to see the team again fighting until the final whistle.
Some people may say it’s a worry that United have waited until the last ten minutes to finish off teams like Swansea, but it’s an attribute that could really come in use in games against more talented opposition. If United can get the old habit back of scoring late goals, teams will be once again fearful of going to Old Trafford as a visiting team.
While the first two games of the season offer a small sample size, you can not look past United to be up in the thick of the title hunt come next May. Mourinho’s side have already got a +8 goal difference, their highest ever to start a Premier League season. That overtook their 2006/07 start, which saw them notch a +7 goal difference after a 5-1 win over Fulham and 3-0 win over Charlton. That season saw them reclaim the title, and fans will be hoping that the similarly high goal difference is a good omen for this season.
With all the firepower and squad depth available to them, Mourinho’s men seem poised to be true contenders. The way they are all linking up as a team is frightening for opposing teams, especially with the power and the size of their spine, which has become all but necessary to win a title in any country. Manchester United aren’t far away from positioning themselves as the de facto team to beat for this year’s trophy.
What was your biggest takeaway from the match? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?