Jose Mourinho must be a happy man. As the new ringmaster at Old Trafford, he has won three openers for Manchester United. The first was the Community Shield final against Leicester at Wembley on August 7 and then the first two matches in the new season of the English Premier League against Bournemouth and Southampton. That is not all. Mourinho’s star recruit from Paris Saint-Germain, Zlatan Ibrahimovic turned in an impressive performance in all three games by scoring at least one goal on every outing. After his match-winning header in the Community Shield final, Ibrahimovic scored a goal against Bournemouth on August 14 and two more against Southampton on August 19. The new-look Man-U side will be playing their third League game against Hull on August 27 and if Ibra scores again, he will equal the Club’s 91 year old record of scoring in his first three Premier League appearances after Jimmy Hanson did that in the 1924/25 season. While Ibra has won many hearts, many people wanted to see world-record signing Paul Pogba in action. However, Pogba had an inauspicious start to his second coming at Old Trafford. He couldn’t play the game against Bournemouth because his Serie A suspension was transferred to the English League. However, the Frenchman came out in the match against Southampton and played impressively, though he couldn’t score any goal.
The last three weeks at Manchester United have belonged to Swedish national star Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The ex-PSG forward announced his arrival at Old Trafford with great fanfare. He played his first match for Man-U at Wembley, before the new EPL season got underway. It was Community Shield final against Leicester and Ibra’s winning header ensured the trophy for his new Club. In the match played on August 7, Man-U midfielder Jesse Lingard put his side ahead with a fantastic individual effort. Lingard collected the ball a little ahead of the center and stymied the challenge from four Leicester players before shooting past the goalkeeper. However a defensive error from Man-U resulted in Leicester equalizing soon after the break. Marouane Fellaini played a poor back-pass too short for goalkeeper David de Gea and Leicester’s Jamie Vardy was first to reach the ball. He went around de Gea and shot into the empty net. Just when the game looked like heading for penalties, Zlatan Ibrahimovic produced an 83rd minute header to meet a cross from Antonio Valencia and Man-U won the trophy.
In his first Premier League game against Bournemouth on August 14, Zlatan Ibrahimovic maintained his insurmountable debut record with a fantastic goal from 30 yards that showed his class. Earlier in his incredible football career, Ibra had scored first-appearance goals in La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Champions League. It was a perfect day for Jose Mourinho with Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney also finding the net. Though, Bournemouth’s Adam Smith pulled one back for his team, Man-U’s 3-1 victory was great start for the new season.
Manchester United’s second fixture was against Southampton on August 19. The Friday night’s game was important for two reasons. First it marked the return of Paul Pogba from Juventus to Manchester United after his £89 million world-record transfer and it was also Jose Mourinho’s first competitive match at home turf. But these facts were soon forgotten in the majestic presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. After the first few minutes, the Swede hogged all the limelight with his superb performance. Just before the match as the players came out, cameras and flash lights were understandably focused on Pogba. Here was a man, whose photograph adorned the match program instead of Mourinho’s, Rooney’s or Ibrahimovic’s. The ex-PSG star had a clear intent even when he walked to the pitch. He was last out of the tunnel, moved slowly and deliberately even as Pogba remained as center of attention. It was to change very soon.
The atmosphere at Old Trafford was electrifying. This was very different from the last there seasons under David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal. But Mourinho has been on the job since his arrival and he is trying to change the game dynamics to make Man-U as an attacking side. This was the approach in the days of Sir Alex Ferguson. Against Southampton, while Ibra made the regular raids into the opposition territory, Pogba was clinical with his touches and opened up spaces in the opposition box. Wayne Rooney did the job of setting up the ball for others. Mourinho also encouraged Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia to attack at every opportunity. Southampton didn’t play badly at all but Man-U players looked charged up. In the 36th minute, Valencia flicked a ball ahead and the fast-running Rooney collected it. The Man-U captain took his time before delivering a pulsating cross, which the racing Ibra reached earlier than Southampton’s Jose Fonte. Then the mercurial Swede produced a header that sailed straight into the goal and the stands at Old Trafford reverberated.
Early in the second half, Southampton’s Dusan Tadic had his goal disallowed. In the 52nd minute, Man-U’s Luke Shaw was brought down by Southampton substitute Jordy Clasie and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Rooney decided in favor of Ibra taking the spot-kick and the Swede didn’t disappoint. He stepped up and sent the Southampton goalkeeper Forster the wrong way. In doubling Man-U’s advantage in the game, Ibra also completed the brace to make it 3 goals in two Premier League matches besides the one he scored in the Community Shield final.
As for Pogba, he played neatly for all 90 minutes and Mourinho couldn’t have been happier. The start of the season has been great for the new Man-U boss with all his pieces falling into the right places. Although Pogba was billed as the cover star, Ibrahimovic has garnered more media attention for his performance so far. The 34-year old striker is quickly rising to the status of someone, who would command more adoration among his own and Man-U’s fans. He now stands at the threshold of breaking Jamie Hanson’s 91-year old record of scoring in his first three matches for Man-U. All that he needs to do is to score a goal against Hull on August 27.
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