Tactical Analysis: Manchester United 2-0 Southampton – Premier League 2016/17

Premier League football made it return to Old Trafford in some style beating Southampton by a 2-0 scoreline, both scored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. #Pogback was everywhere before the game and he carried on that with an excellent performance on debut. United started with a strong 4-2-3-1 line up featuring Fellaini alongside Paul Pogba and Juan Mata retaining his place on the right-hand side.

The first half was what you’d call competitive, both teams settling on the ball for extended periods, United looking to break through the centre of the park and Southampton looking to counter as best as they could. United’s best play in the first half came down the right-hand side with Valencia getting forward well as he did in the games against Leicester and Bournemouth and this was probably helped with Juan Mata not playing as a winger but drifting in to a central role alongside Rooney. This might seem a contradictory statement as you’d assume having a winger would be beneficial, but as Mata drifted in, as did the defenders covering him providing space for Valencia to run into.

Juan Mata Heat Map against Southampton [Squawka]

Juan Mata Heat Map against Southampton [Squawka]

Manchester United Player Influence against Southampton [FourFourTwo StatsZone]

Manchester United Player Influence against Southampton [FourFourTwo StatsZone]

The first goal came from the right too as Wayne Rooney drifted wide, took his time and picked out Zlatan Ibrahimovic who towered above Fonte and hammered his header home. This was a deserved goal as United looked the stronger of the two teams going into the break, Ibrahimovic and Pogba both going close. Soon after the break Luke Shaw was taken down inside the area, allowing Zlatan to step up and make it his second of the game. United managed 11 shots in the game with  on target as well as nine clear-cut chances created

Manchester United Shots versus Southampton [FourFourTwo StatsZone]

Manchester United Shots versus Southampton [FourFourTwo StatsZone]

Paul Pogba was someone touted for a good game today and he had one hell of a debut. He was dominant in his runs and showed his class in all aspects. He challenged well in the air, managed the full 90 minutes but he seriously impressed technically. His vision is something United have lacked in recent seasons, he sees the runs before they happen. 8 successful take ons and 5 interceptions are just some of the highlights statistically, this is his first game…exciting times ahead for Paul Pogba.

Paul Pogba stats versus Southampton [FourFourTwo StatZone]

Paul Pogba stats versus Southampton [FourFourTwo StatZone]

This was a tough test for Jose Mourinho’s men, Bournemouth will have given them great confidence but Southampton provided a more challenging game highlighted by their dominant possession (53% to 47%). Southampton themselves still look a few players short going forward but the pace of Redmond was matched up well by Eric Bailly throughout the game, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia did well both defensively and offensively and De Gea barely had a thing to do. Promising signs in these two opening games, especially in the way United look to break down their opposition defence, tactical and methodological, rather than the poor attempts to throw everything forward and get caught on the counter.

It’s still not the complete performance but when Pogba settles in better, Henrikh Mkhitaryan gets a run of games and more confidence is gained, this United team will rival anyone they come up against. The best is yet to come.

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