After gaining just one point in games against Burnley and Fenerbahce, games where a win was expected of, Manchester United travel to Wales to take on struggling Swansea City in search for an important win. United are without manager Jose Mourinho for the game, who received a touchline ban having been sent to the stands, and lined up with a very interesting team with changes to the defence, as Ashley Young and Phil Jones replace Luke Shaw and Daley Blind, and a midfield focused team.
United started in dominant form, controlling the vast majority of the first half against an admittedly poor Swansea team, even by this season’s standards. But this time, unlike the way it was in some other United’s games, they managed to get the goals to reflect this dominance, as Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored well struck efforts from outside the penalty area, with Ibrahimovic adding his second after some good work from Wayne Rooney to make it 3-0 before half time. However, United took their foot of the throttle completely for the second half, allowing the hosts to pick up a consolation goal through a Martin van der Hoorn header from a Gylfi Sigurdsson free kick.
The unusual team selection did its job well, although helped by a hopeless opposition performance in the first half, and got solid performances out of players who have been looking for an upturn in form. Rooney, playing from the left-wing, was effective in bringing the ball forward with some positive forward runs, while Ibrahimovic finally gets back on the score sheet, adding to some great link up play.
But the best performances are to be found in midfield. Michael Carrick, making his first league start of the season, put on a great show from the base of the midfield. With the Swansea midfield showing little resistance, especially in the first half, Carrick was free to dictate the tempo of the game from the midfield, as well as keeping the balance of the midfield. Despite this impressive showing, he was still not the standout performer.
Edging out Carrick is the scorer of United’s opener, Pogba. Yet even without the goal he’d likely still be chosen here. Even when United pretty much stopped playing in the second half, Pogba was the one still taking on the Swansea team. He’d swap positions with Rooney from time to time, and was formidable throughout. He took advantage of Carrick and Marouane Fellaini holding down the midfield shape to roam forward and wide, spreading his influence and control of the game and feeding his attacking teammate, while joining the attack himself. He did his share of work winning the ball too
As much as Carrick controlled the tempo to the match and provided stability, Pogba was the one who ran the show, the engine running a dominant team performance. And he kept going when most of his teammates had stopped in the comfort of a big lead. For once, there wasn’t a lack competition, but he definitely deserved to be today’s Man of the Match.