5 Things We Learned: Manchester United 2-0 Southampton

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1) Mourinho and United are back

Having both endured a difficult 2015-16 season, together United and Mourinho are regaining their reputations in the game. Mourinho is getting the absolute best out of individuals and the team, Fellaini for example looks a different player, here he played as the deepest midfielder next to Pogba, a role Fellaini has rarely looked capable of playing since arriving at the club but Mourinho is getting the best out of him. Valencia is another who looks back to his best, terrorising opposition left backs with his direct running and strength. Every player is putting in at least a 7/10 performance, something we’ve not seen over the past 3 years. The team has that winning feel to it again and the fans can feel it too. There’s a buzz about the place again, a feeling that something special may be developing. It’s still early days but Mourinho and Manchester United are both looking like a manager and club to be feared again.

2) Pogba can do everything

In an interview that aired before this match on Sky Sports, Thierry Henry asked Pogba what his best attribute is, he couldn’t give a simple answer to this question, Henry then said “That’s the question I ask myself sometimes when I look at you. Because I’m like, he can do everything.” and Pogba later demonstrated just that against Southampton, putting in an all action midfield display in his first game since France’s European final defeat to Portugal over a month ago. What was even more impressive was that he was able to complete the full 90 minutes too, if you didn’t know otherwise you wouldn’t believe that he had only been training with the team for a week. His performance was a reminder of United have been missing in midfield for a number of years now, a proper midfielder, box to box, a player that can do it all. He won the ball back, he controlled the game, he drove the team forward with his pace and power, he can create chances and he can get into goal scoring positions. A great debut and you sense there’s still a lot more to come from the 23 year old.

3) Zlatan is the man

Having already scored on his United debut in a friendly in his homeland of Sweden, he has since scored on his competitive debut for the club against Leicester at Wembley, his Premier League debut away at Bournemouth and now scored a brace on his home debut here against Southampton. At the age of 34, there were doubts from some sections over whether Ibrahimovic could cut it in the Premier League but game by game the Swede is putting those doubts to bed. He has now scored 4 goals in 3 games, but he has added so much more to the team. He is the focal point we have lacked so badly in attack, he is a leader and he won’t accept anything but the best from himself and those around him. He opened the scoring against Southampton with a powerful header, out jumping Jose Fonte who has been one of the league’s best defenders in recent seasons. He then took over penalty taking duties from regular penalty taker of the past 5 years, Rooney, to seal the 3 points. He could have quite easily scored a 3rd goal with both Pogba and Martial opting to take shots themselves instead of passing to Ibrahimovic. Like Pogba, a great start and you feel he’s only just begun.

4) Full backs on fire

Before Luke Shaw broke his leg in September last year, he’d been our best player and as Van Gaal predicted it seemed as though the 2015-16 season was to be the season of Luke Shaw. The night he broke his leg is where it all started to go wrong for Van Gaal. Luke Shaw is back now though and looks like he’s never been away running up and down the left wing carrying out his defensive and attack responsibilities to a high level. His run into the box early in the 2nd half won the penalty that Ibrahimovic tucked away to make it 2-0. On the other side of the pitch was Antonio Valencia who for most of the game pretty much played as a right winger rather than a right back and looks back to his best where he gets his head down and runs directly down the wing using his pace and strength to beat up left backs. In the past few years, he’s not looked to have the confidence to run at defenders and on the occasions he did, his crosses were aimless punts that usually hit an opposition player in the shin. He’s got his confidence back and it’s fantastic to see. One of the traits I’ve always thought about Mourinho’s teams is that the full backs are very consistent and solid, always at least a 7/10 and that looks set to continue at United.

5) Martial yet to get going

He was arguably last season’s best outfield performer but Anthony Martial has struggled so far this season. There could be a few reasons why he has struggled; problems in his personal life might well be one, the change of manager could be another as Martial was one of very few to actually perform under Van Gaal and was the main man in attack, under Mourinho he is no longer the main man and is required to do more to help the team. I think the main reason though is that last season was a long season for a player who is still in his early years of his career at the age of 20. With all this said, it still wasn’t a bad performance from Martial, there were encouraging signs from him in the 2nd half but with others waiting in the wings for a chance under Mourinho he will need to improve a lot more to keep his place in the team.

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