What We Learned: Manchester United 2-0 Southampton – Premier League 2016/17


Manchester United beat Southampton 2-0 at Old Trafford in the Premier League, making it two wins out of two and holding into their top spot in the league until at least tomorrow. The first game of the season at Old Trafford was a good one, United looked good on the pitch, threatened their opposition and got the better of them each and every time. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Man of the Match made a great impression on his teammates, scoring the opening goal of the match nine minutes before half-time and scoring a penalty after Luka Shaw was felled in the area by Jordy Clasie. The Swedish striker is a classy player with lots of experience to give, and to suggest many did not want him at the club during the European Championships after he made little impact for his country, that just makes it all look a bit better.

Jose Mourinho loves Manchester United

Since being announced as the new manager back in May, Jose Mourinho has shown his love for United. The quickness of getting  three out of four of his transfer targets across the line, the fact he seems to have been preparing for his new job since the New Year and the speed of implementing his ways at the club. Mourinho has won the hearts of many United supporters, even ones who did not want him at the club. The fact that he has brought a new dawn to the club, brought the confidence back and allowed his players the freedom to express themselves on the pitch, that is what is making the start of this season all the better. I have a lot of respect for David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, they tried to run the club, one failed quickly, the other made a lot of changes, created a foundation at the club and then was out of his depth, despite him not feeling it. Mourinho though seems to have changed all the wrong things quickly, waking the sleeping dragon which is Manchester United.

Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia on fire

Both Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia have performed well this season so far. Valencia seems to be the player he was a few years back, but like many, I do not think he will maintain his form across the season. Shaw, returning from last season’s injury, has done well to get where he is currently. He seems to have put last season’s devastating injury behind him, learning from it and moving on to better himself. He dominated the left flank, getting forward for a lot of the match and doing what he could to assist Anthony Martial, his teammate in attack. Valencia, seeming to be a version of himself from years ago, did the same on the right, dominating on the flank, getting forward to assist his teammates, putting in some crosses (not all were successful) to create opportunities for the attack to score. Valencia did impress me at one point, beating his man, jumping over him to continue his attack, which took my mind back to when he did the same under Sir Alex Ferguson on the right-wing. Long may it continue, but I believe a new right-back need to be found with Timothy Fosu-Mensah looking to be that guy based on last season’s performance, but that might be a long way away at this moment in time.

Eric Bailly is still the man

The Ivorian signed for United shortly after Jose Mourinho was named the manager, and despite the Portuguese suggesting that he might need some time to settle into a new league, despite impressing in La Liga for Villarreal last season. Bailly has a mixed pre-season, performing well at times, then looking like he needed time, but from the FA Community Shield, where United beat reigning Premier League champions Leicester City 2-1, then the opening Premier League match where United beat Bournemouth 3-1, Bailly was named Man of the Match (in both matches) putting in a dominant performance in which he looked great defending his area and looked a long way from the player many, even Mourinho thought he would be. His performance against Southampton continued his good run, but he was not the Man of the Match at Old Trafford, that was handed to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Bailly maintained his passing at 93%, won 100% of his aerial duels, made four interceptions, nine clearances, committed two fouls and one block. Bailly is definitely a player that Mourinho needs to keep in his starting XI, partnering Daley Blind well in defence. Chris Smalling returned in the final minutes of the match, but will need some time on the pitch before he even thinks about taking Bailly’s place in the starting XI.

Paul Pogba is a cracking midfielder

What an excellent signing Paul Pogba was. He loves being back home. Four years ago when he left the club, I never thought I would see the day when he was wearing the famous red shirt of Manchester United, today I saw that. Despite not really having a pre-season, Pogba looked fresh and lasted 90 minutes, with many assuming he would be substituted around the hour mark of the match. The Frenchman has four shots on goal; one on target and three off target. He maintained a pass success rate of 84% and created two chances for his teammates. In the final minutes of the match, Pogba was through on goal and missed his shot and in the interviews after the match, Zlatan was joking with him about passing the ball, which could have completed his hat-trick, all in jest of course. It is early days for Pogba and his match fitness may not be at the level it needs to be and with him having a good game, full fitness will turn him into some player. United could be back this season, I am sure the rivals will have missed that, not!

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is past it!

I remember when the Swedish international was first linked to Manchester United, many were suggesting that he was past it. He would not fit into the Premier League. He is too old. The last thing United needed was another veteran player. You know what, they were wrong! Many seemed to judge Zlatan on his performances for Sweden at the European Championships in the summer, in a team that did not look all that great. Like Zlatan himself said, when the team plays well, the individual plays well. That seems to be ingrained into his mentality, and for a player as successful as Zlatan to say that, it is not worth arguing with. The guy has scored four goals in three competitive matches for United this season so far, three of those from open play, one from the penalty spot. Zlatan seems to have adapted to the Premier League like a duck to water, a quick transition when many assumed that he would be another Radamel Falcao. Obviously, if he deteriorates in the future, which would be expected, he has already eclipsed what Falcao achieved for United in a season (scoring four goals), in just three matches.


Manchester United are returning to their best, which should appease the opposition supporters who have mocked the club since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson three years ago. United have been poor, at best, despite lifting the FA Community Shield under David Moyes, and the Emirates FA Cup under Louis van Gaal in three years. Under Mourinho, the world seems to be their oyster with the Community Shield already in the bag and United having a good start to the season, so far at least. United have won both Premier League matches they have played, home and away and have 36 matches left to play in the league. This season could shock everyone with United looking to regain their place at the top of the league. It may or may not work like that, but early indications are that it will be a much better season than the last three. United have the winning mentality, brought back by Mourinho and Ibrahimovic, they have class players all over the pitch and players who will reach their peak under the Portuguese. The signings Mourinho has made this summer will go a long way to bringing United back to where they belong and it has certainly solved the goalscoring problem with United scoring seven goals in three matches so far this season, conceding just twice.

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