Manchester United faced a trip to South Wales to battle a struggling Swansea City. How well did the Reds play?
With only one win in their last five Premier League fixtures, Manchester United’s José Mourinho was feeling the beginnings of legitimate pressure in the build up to the trip to South Wales. After losing to Fenerbahçe in Turkey midweek, it is not just United’s domestic league form which is troubling fans. There is a severe lack of identity in Mourinho’s style of play; parking the bus against Liverpool was successful, but when José tried to play expansive, attacking football against Chelsea they were torn to bits. Against Swansea, the Portuguese manager seemed to be trying out a new approach.
It is safe to say that the starting line-up was not greeted with much optimism from United fans on social media. A defence of Young, Jones, Rojo and Darmian is enough to make your bones chill. In midfield, Carrick was reintroduced to partner Pogba and Fellaini while Rooney, Mata and Ibrahimović rounded off one of the slowest starting elevens to ever play in the Premier League. Either Mourinho was trying to prove a point to the owners that this United team needs more strength in depth or this was a revolutionary step in modern football tactics; the former seems much more likely.
Despite the negativity, United’s star names showed up collectively for the first time this season. A fantastic strike from Paul Pogba opened up the scoring and was followed by a Zlatan Ibrahimović brace. Rooney, too, had a much better game than recent performances and United’s make-shift defence managed to only concede a single goal against the second bottom team in the division. As a whole, however, the team played poorly. The goals could all be put down to individual brilliance or Swansea City mistakes. Three points is three points, but United are going to have to improve dramatically if they want to trouble an impressive Arsenal side after the international break.
De Gea: 6
Could have done nothing about van der Hoorn’s goal. Had a very quiet game, only making one claim from a cross in the second half and did not have to make a single save.
Played as a utility right back and did a sufficient job. Isolated Sigurdsson in the first half but was troubled by Montero when the Ecuadorian winger was introduced for the second half. Made more tackles than anyone else on the pitch (6) but unusually failed to get forward down the right hand side.
Not the assertive debut outing under Mourinho that Jones would have wanted. Did not make a single tackle and only won one aerial duel. It was Jones’ man, van der Hoorn, who scored Swansea’s consolation. Was likely picked by Mourinho as a protest to United’s poor strength in depth at the centre of defence. It seemed strange, however, that Mourinho did not opt for United’s youngster, Axel Tuanzebe, who has been impressing for the under-21’s this season.
Another decent performance from the Argentinian who looks much more comfortable at centre back than at left back. Won four aerial duels, more than any other player on the pitch, and subdued the threat of Fernando Llorente and Borja Bastón. Played composed balls out of the back, which is not a trait you would often relate to Rojo.
A reasonably solid game defensively for the Italian international who is more comfortable playing on the opposite flank. Nullified the threat of Wayne Routledge who can so often be a menace for fullbacks. Had an unusual attacking game, especially in the first half, finding himself in Swansea’s attacking third often. Played a very good through ball to Fellaini in the 16th minute but the move came to nothing.
A very comfortable performance for United’s ageing midfielder. Adds real composure in a simplistic nature to the Reds’ midfield which can so often be erratic and wasteful with the likes of Pogba, Fellaini and Herrera. Carrick’s deep-lying tendencies gives Pogba much more freedom to push further up the pitch, which is where the Frenchman is most dangerous. It is not a coincidence that three of Pogba’s best performances have comes when Carrick has started alongside him: Fenerbahçe at home, Manchester City in the EFL Cup and away to Swansea.
The Belgian was his usual lumbering self; slow reactions and not particularly adventurous creatively. Made some good runs in the first half and had a good volleyed effort at goal in the 16th minute. Faded after half time when United decided to let Swansea back into the game.
Mata’s good form is continuing under Mourinho and the Spaniard was especially effective in the first half in linking United’s forays forward. Played a great chipped through ball to Ibrahimović just after half time which the Swede could not convert. Was diligent defensively too, making four tackles. Made a very stupid challenge in the 79th minute which earned the Spaniard a yellow.
The Frenchman’s performance in South Wales showed why Manchester United paid £89 million, without even hitting full stride. He nonchalantly volleyed a shot from outside of the box with so much power that Fabianski had little hope of reaching it before it nestled in the top corner. His creative side was brilliant too, playing a smart through ball into Fellaini within the first ten minutes. Pogba’s physicality helped in the second half when United struggled in midfield against Swansea’s building pressure. Unfortunately, Swansea’s goal came from his and Jones’ mistake, however, Pogba more than made up for his error with his first half performance.
United’s skipper regained some respect from the fans for his strike against Fenerbahçe, and added more with this performance against Swansea. While his two assists were not really ‘assists’, Rooney put in a good display defensively — winning two tackles — and offensively — completing four dribbles, the joint most with Pogba. Playing out on the left wing, Rooney linked up well with Pogba, Mata and Ibrahimović, playing three key passes in total. Almost grabbed a goal in the final few minutes of the game when he rounded Fabianski but was hauled back for an offside call.
Another one of the star names whose performance was much better than recent weeks. Grabbed two well taken goals in the first half and set up chances for Pogba and Fellaini in the second half. Earned a yellow for a silly foul in the 75th minute which means that the Swede will miss United’s next match against Arsenal.
Came on for Juan Mata in the final ten minutes and added fresh legs and defensive diligence.
Replaced Rooney in the 89th minute to solidify United’s result.
Replaced Pogba in midfield. Did not touch the ball.