Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United picked up a much needed three points away at Swansea on Sunday. After a torrid couple of weeks where fans and team alike endured defeat in Europe, humiliation at Chelsea and drew a blank against Burnley despite having almost 40 attempts on goal, three goals and a win is just the tonic.
However, the game itself still threw up a couple of questions.
United coasted through a first half in which Swansea were woefully poor, notching up all three of their goals in that period. By half time the game was won. Swansea offered little going forward and always looked vulnerable when United attacked. United could have hit them for five or six but instead they conceded ground giving Swansea the tiniest glimmer of hope.
After such a poor run of form you would think United would seize this chance to make a statement, instead they came out for the second half completely flat showing no real desire to put the Swans to the sword.
United’s flagship summer signings, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba, have taken much of the flak over the last few weeks. Both of them got on the score sheet today, which will please Mourinho. But with the game won at 3-0 and the level of performance having fell off a cliff why did the Speacial One wait until the 81st minute to make his first substitution?
Ibrahimovic has already played a lot more football than most would have anticipated this season. Having scored two goals to get out of the slump he’s been in the last couple of weeks, you would think he was the ideal candidate to make way for either Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford. Both of whom could do with a run out in the number nine role. Instead Mourinho left him on until the final whistle. During which time he picked up a yellow card, ruling him out of United’s next Premier League match which sees an in-form Arsenal visit Old Trafford.
Pogba too was one yellow card away from suspension yet remained on the pitch until the 90th minute himself. The Frenchman will be available for the Gunners visit but Mourinho will be without his big number nine. Given the frequency with which he has selected Ibrahimovic in the league you’d have to think he was already penciled in to start against Arsenal.
This was an uncharacteristic error of judgement on the manager’s part.
The performance of Michael Carrick also raised questions as to why the midfielder has been used so sparingly by Mourinho. The former England midfielder brought a sense of control to the middle of the park that United have rarely enjoyed this season. His presence alone allows Pogba to run free and create panic among the opposition’s defenders. Given how hit and miss the world record signing has been since his arrival, the fact that Carrick seems to be the common denominator in his best displays should be taken into account.
Manchester United’s first half performance and the three points is enough to ease the pressure on Mourinho. But if the team can’t kick on and get more points on the board over the next couple of games he’ll be right back where he was before Sunday’s game.