First home game. Mourinho is yet to know a loss. Pogba was back and starting. Henrikh still didn’t find a place in the starting XI. But there was this sense of anticipation. Proven manager, electrifying characters on the pitch. In came a team that managed to beat United twice in the last three trips here. They claimed they are in for a good game.
And it indeed was a good game. It just happened that United were much more clinical. Direct forward play. With Zlatan in the box, wingers no longer play intricate small passes to build in the final third. The 4-4-1-1 switching to 4-4-2 during a rampant attack, back to a 4-5-1 when defending. The top three – Zlatan, Wayne and Anthony swapping positions in the front line; the bustling pace of Valencia and Shaw on the wings; the solidity of defence by Marouane in the center protecting a well marshalled partnership of Bailly and Blind.
Pogba’s first touch resulted in a swift counter attack that almost lead to a goal in the first minute for the Saints. But as the game grew on, his nerves settled and he started enjoying, gliding across the pitch and beyond players. Strong, fending off position, brilliant ball control and a number of times the ref offered an advantage as he was fouled. He was solid in partnership with Marouane, but at the same time making leaping forays box to box.
Tough to keep the limelight away from Zlatan. A seemingly innocuous cross from Wayne, with no pressure on him as he crossed. Fonte was ready to clear it off, but in a split second, Zlatan towered over him, hindering Fonte’s leap. He generated pace, purely from his neck muscles as the ball flashed across the flailing hands of Fraiser F. #DaretoZlatan.
Welcome to the theatre of dreams. #GGMU. The fortress is back.