Manchester United

PL Playback: Man United ready to roam freely

Leave a comment

MAN UNITED’S MOMENTUM

So far this season Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United look ready to bolt from the barn whenever matchday rolls around.

In a good way.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

United blew away Swansea City 4-0 on Saturday, using an explosive 3 minute and 41 second period to score three times at the end of the game.

Mourinho’s stable of powerful attacking players are on the pitch and on the bench, with Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial running riot late in the game.

“I had players on the bench who could help me. Happiness in our play. It happened to me so much with my teams, you’re winning 1-0 and you can can concede. There was no need to close the door, just let the horses run freely,” Mourinho told the BBC after the game.

The depth in this United squad is considerable with Martial coming off the bench to score twice and assist on another goal in the opening two games of the PL season. Lukaku has scored four goals in his first three official games for United, while Pogba has a goal in each of his first two PL games this season. Everything is looking rosy for United who sit top of the table after two 4-0 wins to open the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

But hold your horses. No disrespect to West Ham and Swansea, but United should beat them convincingly. Yet they seem to have put aside their problems from last season where they dominated teams but couldn’t put them away, which led to a league-high 15 draws from 38 games. They’ve kept more clean sheets than any other PL team in 2017, so conceding hasn’t been the issue.

The balance is now better with attackers able to roam freely and interchange further up the pitch. In truth, they played similarly for large spells of last season but they couldn’t finish. Now the confidence is flowing and scoring goals seems like the easiest thing in the world.

Mourinho seems to have instilled newfound confidence in his team and with the players now having a whole season of the Mourinho experience under their belt, they understand what he wants. Also, the second-season syndrome (we all know what happens in year three) under Mourinho always seems to get the best out of his methods. There is a real feel-good vibe around United right now and their early-season schedule will allow this to build.

Despite all of the positives surrounding United’s opening victories, what if Romelu Lukaku goes down injured? Can Marcus Rashford, who has looked dangerous out on the left, fill his void up top? Maybe Zlatan Ibrahimovic will arrive on a short-term deal but the forward issue is one which will still concern Mourinho, even though his attacking unit is purring right now. Injuries hit United hard last season but they had more games with their Europa League campaign, EFL Cup success and deep run in the FA Cup. This season should be easier to manage.

Mourinho’s team now seem able to shut opponents down and limit their chances and the balance of this team is spot on. Nemanja Matic‘s arrival has been lauded and he allows Pogba to roam free in support of Lukaku, Rashford, Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan who was sublime once again, taking his assist tally to four in 173 minutes for the season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

The diminutive duo of Juan Mata and Mkhitaryan perfectly compliment the powerful trio of Pogba, Lukaku and Rashford in attack and all of a sudden you can see why Mourinho was shown pretending to smoke an imaginary cigar before the game when the cameras caught him chatting with Swansea boss Paul Clement.

So chill.

Mourinho will let his horses roam free for the opening months of the season as United do not face a top six opponent until Oct. 14 when they head to Liverpool and then they face Chelsea and Tottenham in two of their next three games, while the UCL group games will also come thick and fast around that time.

That’s when the real tests will start to arrive but United already have a ruthless streak about them which wasn’t there last season.


CHELSEA’S WEMBLEY GRIT

It wasn’t the best display Chelsea will put in, but it had buckets of desire and determination as they became the first team to beat Tottenham at home (yes, it was Wembley) in 19 Premier League games.

[ MORE: Can Spurs get over Wembley jinx? ]

After being at the London derby, the first-ever Premier League game at Wembley, I wrote about Spurs’ struggles at their temporary home, and that was a big part of this.

Chelsea rode their luck but without the injured Eden Hazard, exiled Diego Costa, the suspended duo of Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas, plus new signings Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko all taking time to settle in as they made their first starts for the club, it was one heck of a result.

[ MORE: 3 things learned from Chelsea’s win ]

Tottenham were wasteful in attack against Chelsea’s revamped 3-5-2 system which saw David Luiz become a colossal in central midfield and youngster Andreas Christensen more than hold his own in central defense. They hit Spurs on the counter expertly as Willian hit the post and then Marcos Alonso scored a late winner which sent the 3,000-plus away fans wild at Wembley.

Antonio Conte ran to the away section after the game punching the air with delight as the Italian coach looked to be unloading plenty of the pressure which had been piling up on his shoulders over the summer and the early weeks of this season. That was understandable following the Costa saga, Nemanja Matic being sold to Man United, the FA Community Shield defeat to Arsenal and a shock loss to Burnley.

“This is a perfect response of the champions,” Conte said. “We won the league last season, winning 30 games, and that is not easy. We lost in the final of the FA Cup. We have arrived in some problems with bans and injuries but we must be ready to work and focus on the pitch. The club is trying its best in the transfer market to improve our squad but I must be happy.”

With the chips down, Sunday’s London derby win proved the reigning champs won’t give up their crown without a fight.


EARLY SEASON HEROES, STRUGGLERS

We are only in Week 2 but there are already plenty of heroes and vllains around the Premier League.

Huddersfield Town have won their first two Premier League games with David Wagner‘s side beating Newcastle United 1-0 on Sunday at a raucous John Smith’s Stadium.

Aaron Mooy was the hero as the Australian midfielder cut inside and bent home a beauty into the far corner to become Huddersfield’s hero. In truth, every Terriers player was a hero, just like they were in Week 1 at Crystal Palace.

Wagner’s men are six points closer to the magic 40-point marker to avoid relegation and the Yorkshire club are loving life in the big-time. They are the new darlings of the PL.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are five teams at the bottom of the Premier League table who have yet to grab a point this season, and four of those have yet to score a goal.

They aren’t panicking, but a slow start is far from ideal.

Newcastle United were lackluster in attack in their defeat at Huddersfield and Rafael Benitez looks frustrated on the sidelines with funds from owner Mike Ashley not as forthcoming as he’d hoped. The Magpies need major work in the final weeks of the window.

So do fellow new boys Brighton & Hove Albion and Chris Hughton‘s side barely created anything at Leicester City in their second 2-0 defeat to open the season. Bournemouth, surprisingly, have lost two games to open the campaign with Eddie Howe‘s men also yet to score as Watford dominated the game at the Vitality Stadium. The alarm bells are ringing in Dorset.

Crystal Palace put in a dogged display away at Liverpool but Christian Benteke missed a glorious chance and Frank de Boer’s men conceded late on with Sadio Mane grabbing the winner and West Ham have now conceded seven goals to open the season with two defeats from two for Slaven Bilic‘s side.

At least West Ham’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez hasn’t had a slow start to the season even though his team lost 3-2 at Southampton in a dramatic game. Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer netted two typical close-range goals but his side were undone by giving away two penalty kicks and having Marko Arnautovic stupidly sent off.

Like the other teams struggling at the start of the season, the Hammers are creating problems for themselves. How would Hernandez sum up their start and the current mood at West Ham?

“Difficult, we knew that with three away games. The last two with Manchester United and then at Southampton we played a really good game in the second half with 10 men, we had a lot of effort and were so close to getting one point and maybe even three points, you never know. It has been a little bit sad but we are getting there,” Hernandez said. “We need time to keep working, to keep improving. We need to look forward, we need to be positive. We can not stay in the good memories or bad memories. That’s the good thing about football, you have a chance of revenge every weekend.”

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Report: Ibrahimovic to sign for Man Utd this week, posts teasing video

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
1 Comment

Look, at some point we may have to face the idea that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not from this planet.

The Swedish legend, 35, has healed well ahead of schedule and will reportedly sign a new contract with Manchester United this week.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ibrahimovic was one of the best finishers in the Premier League last season, and the idea of him spelling Romelu Lukaku or Jose Mourinho putting the two beasts on the pitch at the same time will only reinforce thoughts that United can chase hardware in any tournament it enters this season.

From ESPN.co.uk:

The new contract will be announced earlier than anticipated due to the former Sweden international’s quick recovery.

The reports comes on the same day the Swedish striker posted video his spin kicking a heavy bag with both legs and asking viewers which of his pegs boasted this summer’s surgically-repaired knee.

He’s probably an alien.

Jose Mourinho: Man United “let the horses run freely”

Leave a comment

This season we will get used to seeing Jose Mourinho nodding his head in approval as it looks like he has a nasty smell under his nose.

[ VIDEO: United destroy Swansea

The Portuguese coach is feeling his Manchester United team, and rightly so, and images before the game show him pretending to smoke a cigar as he laughed and joked with Swansea boss Paul Clement.

Mourinho watched on as his side won 4-0 for the second-straight game to open the 2017-18 Premier League season, with a flurry of late goals in a three minute and 41 second spell doing the damage.

Speaking after the game Mourinho to BBC, the Red Devils boss is happy to let his side roam free after they dominated the game.

“During almost 90 minutes, I don’t say 90 because there was a moment when they had a chance and we lost a little bit the confidence,” Mourinho said. “They were waiting with class, calm and consistency for the moment to kill the game. Swansea played with five in the back and they had a moment when they felt they had to change and when they did we had more space and killed the game.

“I felt in control, if you had a chance to look at me and my body language I think you could see that. Football is football and when you make a mistake you can concede so I never felt totally relaxed. I had players on the bench who could help me. Happiness in our play. It happened to me so much with my teams, you winning 1-0 and you can can concede. There was no need to close the door, just let the horses run freely.”

One of those horses who galloped gallantly was Paul Pogba who dinked home a wonderful goal late on to make it 3-0 and he put in a dominant display with Romelu Lukaku (four goals in three official games for United) and Anthony Martial also scoring and Marcus Rashford once again impressing.

“We had a very good result. 4-0 again. We carry on this road. We want this and we have to carry on like this,” Pogba told Sky Sports. “We are more confident and we know each other more. First year you have the first year for the manager, you have to train the team, it is not easy but we still won trophies. This season we are more confident and we know the team very well. Everyone knows each other and we work for each other and that is easier for us.”

Henrik Mkhitaryan, who was named the man of the match with two assists late on, believes United are now getting some more luck after they drew plenty of games they should have won last season.

“The team spirit, that’s what we need. Of course we had it last year but now we have a little bit of luck where we are scoring the chances we are creating. We started very well and most important we keep doing the same,” Mkhitaryan added.

VIDEO: Man United score three in less than four minutes

Leave a comment

It took 3 minutes and 41 seconds for Manchester United to totally destroy Swansea City.

Leading 1-0 at Swansea as they entered the final 10 minutes, Jose Mourinho’s side were always in control.

Then they exploded into life.

[ RECAP – United batter Swansea 4-0

Henrikh Mkhitaryan set up Romelu Lukaku (he has three goals in his first two Premier League games for United) and Paul Pogba in a few moments, watch their goals in the video above, then Anthony Martial finished things off with a fine goal.

Click play on the video below to see Martial score for the second-straight game off the bench.

Swansea 0-4 Man United: Ruthless, rampant Red Devils

Leave a comment
  • Bailly scores first-ever United goal
  • Late goals from Lukaku, Pogba, Martial seal win
  • Swansea yet to score this season
  • Eight goals, zero conceded for United

Emphatic. Dominant. Ruthless. What a start to the season for Manchester United.

The Red Devils beat Swansea City 4-0 at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday with Jose Mourinho’s men top of the table as they’ve now won two games from two, both 4-0, to start the 2017-18 campaign.

Eric Bailly gave United the lead right on half time after taping home from close range and to Swansea’s credit they hung in there for most of the game without really creating clear-cut chances.

Three goals in four minutes late in the game sealed the deal for United with Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial all on the scoresheet.

United sit top of the PL and have a goal difference of plus-eight. Swansea have one point from their opening two matches and are yet to score with a Gylfi Sigurdsson-sized hole in their attack.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Both teams hit the crossbar early in the game after a frantic start to proceedings. First Swansea broke down the left and Jordan Ayew‘s cross with the outside of his foot almost caught out David De Gea at his near post as the ball flicked off the crossbar and just missed the onrushing Tammy Abraham.

Moments later Lukaku broke free but hammered a shot wide and soon United went even closer to taking the lead with Juan Mata‘s free kick shouldered onto the bar by Phil Jones.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Pogba was first booked for scything down Tom Carroll and moments later he clattered into Martin Olsson with referee John Moss calling over the Frenchman for a talking to instead of handing him a second yellow card.

Marcus Rashford then latched onto a mistimed header from Alfie Mawson but after racing free he dinked his effort straight at Lukasz Fabianski. Before the break Fabianski spilled a cross but Juan Mata’s effort bobbled harmlessly wide as United did most of the pressing and eventually it paid off.

Daley Blind‘s corner from the left found Pogba unmarked and his thunderous header cannoned off the underside of the crossbar but Bailly was on hand to prod home his first goal for Manchester United. 1-0 to the Red Devils right on half time.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

United continued to dominate the early stages of the second half but Abraham did have a header fly just over from Olsson’s cross. At the other end Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s shot was deflected wide.

Late in the game Swansea tried to put to United under pressure in pursuit of an equalizer with a change in formation and Federico Fernandez had a header deflected over from a corner.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ] 

Then a three-goal blitz in four minutes saw United run out convincing winners with Henrikh Mkhitaryan teeing up both Lukaku and Pogba to finish calmly before Martial jumped off the bench to curl home a fourth.

United could not have got off to a better start this season.