Four games on the trot for Manchester United and things seem a little better than how it looked at the start of the month. United have beaten David Moyes’s Sunderland, comfortably, with a goal a piece for Daley Blind, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. United did not look bothered or troubled by Sunderland’s intermittent counter attacks although could not create many clear-cut chances themselves before Blind slotted one home just before half time. It was a very comfortable victory for Mourinho’s transitioning United team but they did have to fight till the end in order to see the game through. The Red devils had a whole host of scoring opportunities in the second half but could not finish it off and one would have thought if it’s deja vu all over again. But it wasn’t to be and Ibrahimovic’s calm and Mkhitaryan’s incredible finish saw United home. At 2-0 the game was as good as over but that goal from Mkhitaryan, although offside, raised the roof and excitement amongst the fans. The goal scorer himself looked pretty calm and composed, unlike the fans, while taking about it.
“I was expecting the ball in front of me. I was already in front so I got the ball behind me and only thing I could do was try to hit it with back heel and I did and I succeeded”
When asked about his fitness and the injury that kept him out of the last two games, he was positive about how he was feeling.
“I am good thank you. I don’t have any body part hurting from the injury and I am happy to be back on the pitch and help the team win the game. I will try to do my best for next game as well. We are in a good shape and we have to keep winning like this.”
Another goal scorer for the day, Blind, who might as well go unnoticed given his humble playing style, gave his take on all the goal scorers and his team’s performance today.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 26, 2016
United manager, in spite of the more than satisfactory result, was honest and right in pointing out a little flat and ineffective first half performance.
“I liked the second half. I didn’t like the first half. It was 1-0 at half-time and I think there was a clear penalty in our favour [when Lamine Kone flattened Juan Mata inside the box]. In spite of that, I don’t think we deserved to be winning 1-0. They were organised well, this team came here to close and try to be dangerous on the counter-attack, with the long ball to [Victor] Anichebe to hold, and they did well. I did like the second half, we brought to the game the way we have been playing in the past couple of months, playing really well with intensity, creativity and we were dynamic. I like the second half very much as we could have scored five or six. It’s three points, 12 points from four matches. We’ve played well for a long time but points are what we need now.”
It was Mourinho’s half-time instructions of playing quick paced, short pass football which helped United make further inroads and irreparable damage
“My message was that the game was going in the direction where we were in control but it was apathetic control. You never know. We needed to accelerate the game, press higher, play faster and short passes with more speed of the ball. We needed to bring the game to a different level and we did that from minute one [of the second half]. With Micki [Henrikh Mkhitaryan] and [Anthony] Martial, we intensified even more the game and we scored the second and third.”
The Portuguese manager was not going to get away without giving his reaction to the absolute blinder of a goal that Mkhitaryan scored.
“He has scored beautiful goals all his career. In this moment, [there are the] goals but also the defensive work and also creativity. And I’m so happy he came back after this injury and came back with his happiness and the feeling that the people at Old Trafford love him. That’s a very important thing for him.”
With the last game of the year coming up in five days time, United would want to end the year on a high. They have been undoubtedly much better than what the table suggests but nothing else matters, at the end of the season, but points. With another couple of winnable fixtures before United host Liverpool at Old Trafford, the Red Devils would want to stay in touching distance of their old-time rivals. The team has done well to close down the point difference to what it is now but it will all be rendered useless if they are not able to follow these performances up with some more wins. However, if they keep performing at the level that they are and be consistent and ruthless in scoring off the chances, United should not have much difficulty in climbing that Premier League table. But will they do it, is something only time will tell? Over to the last game of the year, hoping for another such comfortable scoreline!