Jose Mourinho has now won all his first three competitive games for Manchester United and even though its early days, there are things that the supporters would like to get excited about. Today’s game was a special game considering the number of people making their home debuts – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly and the manager himself. The fans have been excited for this season opener at Old Trafford and the new signings along with the last season players did not disappoint a bit. Yes, the performance was not perfect but there was passages of play which must have brought even the laziest of the fan on their feet. Overall, it was a comfortable win in the end and Mourinho, too, echoed similar feelings when asked about the game and the performance
“We were good enough to deserve the victory and be in control. We won comfortably and the result could have been bigger. It’s a natural evolution, step by step. It’s impossible to demand more from the boys. It’s a great spirit with everyone working really hard.”
But in spite of so many highlights the night probably belonged to one person, Zlatan, who has now scored in all of the United’s competitive games so far. The manager was pretty happy with his striker’s performance too but stressed upon the fact that it was the teamwork which was also equally impressive.
“He is very good in the air but very good with his feet. I am really happy with his performance. The team was good and it was a collective effort to keep a clean sheet and work hard. I am hurt by decisions to leave players out and the team is a great team.”
When talking about the world’s most expensive player, Pogba, Mourinho certainly expressed his delight but also did not miss out to point out good performances from Marouane Fellaini.
“I think he was so good. Everything that was individual he was so good, everything that was collective was so good. I am really happy. He can play more offensively than today but he needs that freedom he had. I couldn’t be happier with him but in my feeling Fellaini was superb, Carrick [can come in], Schneiderlin is looking for an opportunity.”
Another thing which the manager requested in the pre-game presser was, for the crowd to “play” for the team and it certainly looked that way. The former Chelsea manager was impressed with the support and couldn’t have asked for more.
“It couldn’t be better, I got what I wanted, what the players needed and deserved. Some parts of our game belonged to the nature of this club. We can’t be the same United of 80s, 90s and early 2000s as football has changed a lot. There is an evolution but we brought to the game some aspects so the United culture and the first goal is a great example of that.”
He also specifically complimented the full backs for the impressive shift that they put in both defending and going forward.
“Luke [Shaw] and Antonio [Valencia] were offensive when they had to be and very good defensively. They always had very good support from our wingers to close down the opponents.”
While answering the query about, if he has now settled in Manchester, he also explained why he doesn’t smile or wave much.
“I felt completely at home. I know I’m not a very nice guy, not smiling or waving, but it’s not in my nature. Once I leave the changing room, I get into my game.”
One person who was in the hot chair for the past three seasons, Ryan Giggs, was on Sky Sports for tonight’s game and he had a cautious but very optimistic point of view of the things
“It wasn’t a totally dominant game from United, Southampton were always in the game but there were so many pluses: Pogba’s performance, Ibrahimovic scoring twice, Shaw and Valencia with good performances so a lot of positives and Jose Mourinho starting with Pogba. We were all saying ‘would he start, would he make an impact’ and he started him and he was brilliant on the night.”
Ibrahimovic had an admirer in Thierry Henry and he explained exactly what makes Zlatan such a lucrative prospect to have in one’s team.
“That’s exactly what you can expect from him. He said that it was easier in France but it doesn’t really matter. He maybe got more chances in France but he was scoring more goals too so if he got four chances, he was scoring three or whatever it is. That is what you’re going to get with Zlatan.
“He might not be in the game at times but you’re always going to have a chance to score with him and we saw that tonight.”
While Henry expected such performances from the Swedish legend, Giggs was pleasantly surprised by the headers with which he has scored, now, two goals
“When United signed Ibrahimovic, we were talking about the quality that he brings, the hold up play, the flicks but we didn’t talk about these sort of headed goals, these typical English centre-forward goals and he’s scored two of them already. It’s a brilliant asset to have.”
The man of the hour, who was also adjudged today’s man of the match focussed on the team winning more than his two goals.
“If the team does good, the individuals do good. I try to do what I’m best at, helping my team-mates, creating chances and scoring goals.
“I’m happy for the team. We are becoming better and better. It’s a good start. We need to get used to winning, the mental part is important. I need to get to know everybody and the way we play. Everything is new. It’s like a big parcel. We need to put the parcel together.
“Here the game is tougher [than France] and you need to work through the game. When the possibility comes you need to be focused. It doesn’t matter who scored.”
Another player who had all the spotlight was Pogba and he too was pretty happy with his first outing
“It’s a great feeling, I’m very happy, it’s my brother’s birthday so I am happier. I was relaxed, no nerves, I played my game. I came here to win, that is what I always wanted. It’s a top club, we need to get used to winning and carry on like this.
“First ball, I lost it, but got used to it. After that I felt better. We dream big. United are a big club, I know we will do big things this season.”
Two down, 36 to go and United are looking like United again. The attacking flair is coming back slowly but surely and the exciting times are back. Southampton had more possession today but as United experienced first-hand last season, that hardly matters. Hopefully, the players keep on the trajectory of development and if that is the case, United and their fans are in for one great entertaining ride this season. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves and enjoy what has been an easy comfortable and professional second victory in the row. On to the next one!