MANCHESTER — Two Zlatan Ibrahimovic goals gave Manchester United a 2-0 win at home against Southampton on Friday under the lights at Old Trafford.
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It was a fairly routine win for Jose Mourinho on his home debut in the Premier League as world-record signing Paul Pogba made his debut and shone with touches of class.
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Here’s what we learned from Old Trafford.
ZLATAN IS THE MAN
Not bad for a free transfer…
Wheeling away after his fourth goal in his first three games for Manchester United, it all looked too easy for Ibrahimovic on Friday night.
He towered about Jose Fonte to head home the opener in the first half and then six minutes into the second half he slotted home a penalty kick to make it 2-0 and effectively end the game.
Zlatan, 34, is showing no signs that the Premier League is too much for him. Only on a one-year contract at United, the Swedish striker has already made a huge impact in his short time at the club. He scored the winner against Leicester City late on in the FA Community Shield at Wembley, grabbed a fine strike at Bournemouth and scored both goals against Saints.
It couldn’t have been a better start for Zlatan in England and to silence any doubters he head. Sure, not everything was perfect as he dropped deep and on at least two occasions gave the ball away cheaply. Even Zlatan held his hand up to apologize on one particularly bad giveaway.
He is human, after all. Another thing which was hugely recognizable at Old Trafford was the fact that many of United’s fans had Zlatan’s name on the back of his shirt. United are already making plenty of the hefty wages they pay Zlatan.
His first touch back in a Manchester United shirt was a miskick which allowed Southampton to launch a counter attack. Things got better from there on out.
Pogba, 23, seemed to tower over Southampton’s midfielders and he often held a defender off with one arm as he dictated play with the ball at his feet. Pogba started on the left of a central midfield three and we got a glimpse of how he and Ibrahimovic could link up in the first half as Pogba clipped in a delicious ball which was flicked on by Juan Mata and then acrobatically scissor kicked over by Zlatan.
Pogba headed over from eight-yards out in the second half as he had a great chance to open his account on debut and he hammered the ground with frustration. Pogba then started to turn on the flair late on as he drove forward relentlessly from midfield, turned his men with clever tricks and sprayed the ball out wide with pin-point passes. By the final 10 minutes he had run out of steam but Mourinho didn’t bring him off as he played the full 90 on a debut which showed plenty of promise.
The French international midfielder may well not be worth the $117 million United paid for him but he already looks a classy acquisition. And, like Zlatan, his shirt seems to be flying off the shelf at United’s mega store which will help pay back some of that transfer fee.
SAINTS MISSING KILLER INSTINCT
Dressed in a black suit and tie with a white shirt, Claude Puel looked like he belonged in reservoir dogs. Like the ending for Mr. White in Quentin Tarantino’s cult film, it has not been a happy start to life in the Premier League for Puel.
After dropping two points at home on the opening day against Watford, Saints were undone by two silly defensive mistakes at United. For spells they controlled possession and moved the ball well but they snatched at chances in the final third. Shane Long hit the side-netting with a snapshot. Long sent a header inches wide, while Jordy Clasie twice snatched at shots, Dusan Tadic hammered another wide and Nathan Redmond squandered chances and possession in promising areas. Southampton didn’t look outclassed and they were coming up against a fired up United on Mourinho’s home debut in the PL, yet Puel will be concerned that Saints’ regression following the sale of Graziano Pelle, Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama has hit them harder than they thought over the summer.
It could be a long hard season for Saints with the latest rebuild perhaps proving it was one too many.