After so many games and ineffective performances, Manchester United finally managed to put in a professional and more importantly, clinical display of football resulting in crucial three points. Regardless of the opponent, this game was crucial for United to win, looking at the results that came up elsewhere. Jose Mourinho and his men did not disappoint and got home unscathed. The talking points, before the game began, were obviously David De Gea not being in the squad and the new United captain, Marouane Fellaini. Thankfully, courtesy the result, none of this will make the headlines or front pages.
It was again, the Swedish hero who gave United the much-needed breakthrough with a fantastic finish from outside the box with Henrikh Mkhitaryan doubling the score just after the second half. The game thereafter was a walk in the park for United unlike in the first half where Sunderland did cause United some troubles. United’s top goal scorer reacted with optimism after the game:
“Today was a good win and we have to keep focus and keep working and keep believing we can reach the top four. We believe in it and we will do everything we can to reach the top four.”
Another incident which caught the eye was the Red Card incident and Zlatan Ibrahimovic played safe when asked if it was or not.
“At the end the best team will win so the game was good and we got the 1-0 and the red card. I couldn’t see if it was a red card or not but he gave it and then we played with one more. Sometimes it’s more difficult but sometimes it gives you the advantage because you have one more.”
Ibrahimovic’s fitness has always been the talk around the superstar and it came to the fore again due to his performance today and the big Swede had a perfect comparison to describe his fitness.
“I train hard. I believe in myself and I know what I am able to do. I’m not worried. The older you are, the more experienced, the more intelligent and you don’t waste energy on things you don’t need. I feel like Benjamin Button. I was born old and will die young.”
Mourinho later, talking after the game admitted that yesterday’s result left them with very few options but to win.
“The result was good. We resisted the results of yesterday when Manchester City and Liverpool won, they left us in a position of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It was ‘yes’.
“We got three points and it was a solid display. It was against a team that is sad, it’s normal. Against a team that is sad, if you score before then it’s difficult for them to react.
“You could feel the negative feeling around the team. That is felt with a team close to relegation.”
He also lauded Ibrahimovic’s effort as it opened the game for United.
“It was open at 0-0. We were in control without danger. We were playing quite compact and solid. You need these players to break it. Every team has a couple of them. Zlatan did that. We felt the game was in our pocket. In this beautiful weather the game was played at a more slow intensity.”
At the same time, he also gave importance to the second goal which effectively killed the game, at least the mentality of the opposition.
“I told them in the second half we had to go to kill the game. It was under control but we needed the second goal to kill mentally the opponent. But I didn’t expect that it was after one minute. I was thinking it had to be after a solid period of intensity for our attacking football. But we started the game, scored a goal and killed it.”
With a number of injuries that Mourinho has to deal with, he expressed his content at not having any further additions to that list.
“We had lots of players that were not here today and the most important thing after the three points was to have no more injuries. Only Valencia is the one I really expect to recover and play the next match.”
The absence of De Gea created a few question marks while the inclusion of Luke Shaw in the starting line-up left a lot of United supporters happy. However, Mourinho also took Shaw off after an hour mark and a few fans were left wondering if it was due to the tackle that took Shaw out. Mourinho answered both the questions when probed about it.
“It’s a little De Gea injury. It’s not a big problem. When he dives to one side he feels a little bit but Romero is very good and very solid and Romero goes again to play in the Europa League.
“I took Shaw off because of the yellow card and the pressure from the crowd. It was good to protect him but was also good for him to play one hour with a good solid performance and no mistakes, so I’m really pleased for him.”
The captain for the day was expectedly very happy with the result
— Marouane Fellaini (@Fellaini) April 9, 2017
It was a good result but one which was expected. The games to follow now, are way tougher than this one and those will define United’s season. Top Four is still very much a possibility but United will have to be more clinical and ruthless in front of the goal for that. Hopefully, this win and the goals will give them the confidence that they will be needing till the end of the season. All the eyes will now be on Europa League, the tournament where United are expected to go all the way. Let’s hope the expectations are met and there are no upsets down the road.