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Vishakh’s latest “The Manchester Musings” column.
Score- 2-0 (Ibrahimovic x2)
After a strong showing on the south coast against Bournemouth, Manchester United returned back to the Theatre of Dreams for their first home game of the season against Southampton.
Three of the four summer signings were named in the lineup, including a certain player who was making his second Old Trafford bow – the most expensive player in the world, Paul Pogba.
While the cameras were trained on Pogba to see how he got on (more on that later), it was another box-office player that grabbed the headlines – Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
United continued with the majority of the same lineup as against Bournemouth, with Pogba for Herrera being the only change.
In the first game, Ibrahimovic had looked slightly isolated (understandable as he is still getting to know the players).
The second game was no different until about the 33rd minute.
Wayne Rooney had time, space, and the ability to think about what he wanted to do with the ball when found free in front of the far corner flag at the Stretford End, and he whipped in a cross to about the penalty box.
There was Ibrahimovic – with a stunning, powerful header that marked another goal in his nascent United career. It was visceral without causing pain (apart to the Southampton fans that is).
A strong and powerful header – a typical number 9s goal. The cross was perfect it must be said, and United were 1-0 up.
The game was largely comfortable for the home side, but Southampton did have their chances – Shane Long and Dusan Tadic had chances – yet they failed to really test De Gea.
Away teams coming to Old Trafford have to take their opportunities to put pressure on the home side, and when Southampton failed to do so, United took advantage.
A push on the back of Luke Shaw within the penalty box allowed Zlatan to step up (literally) and he sent Forster the wrong way from the penalty spot. 2-0, and the shackles/pressure/expectations were lifted.
For the remainder of the second half, there was a swagger.
It was not quite how the Ferguson-era used to be, but the way United cut Southampton open to create chances in the second half was pleasing to see.
The finishing was not clinical enough, the final ball not quite there, and poor decision making prevented the scoreline being higher, but United were comfortable enough to see the game out and take another 3 points.
The story was all about one man, and he did not disappoint.
Apart from the first touch (where he whiffed a pass and allowed Southampton to counter attack), Pogba was everywhere.
Collecting the ball from deep, he drove/dribbled past Southampton players in a manner not seen by many United fans recently. His passing was tidy, and he made crucial tackles/interceptions too.
Mourinho and Pogba seem to have brought out a different Fellaini. He played in the double pivot, but he was calm, composed, and played safe.
The two dovetailed well, and for once fans seemed to be content with a Fellaini performance.
David De Gea
For the past three seasons, the Spanish goalkeeper has been the Player of the Season, and deservedly so.
However, against Southampton he was arguably anonymous with not much to do – and how United fans will be hoping for more of the same.
Written by Vishakh Chandrasekhar
Follow Vishakh on Twitter @VishC24
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