Revenge was sweetly delivered to David Moyes by Manchester United as the Red Devils promptly dispatched Sunderland 3-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday evening. After a slow half hour to start, Daley Blind’s opener put United in the ascendancy. Sunderland provided a few nervy moments, but United displayed enough solidarity to see the first half out.
It looked to be heading towards another tense finish before Paul Pogba’s pressing won him in the ball to advantage, before putting Zlatan Ibrahimovic to get the Swede another goal taking his tally to 17 for the season. Henrikh Mkhitaryan then put away one of the goals of the season (barring the offside issue) with a brilliant flick to make it 3-0.
Fabio Borini put away a late pearler to get a consolation for the visitors, but Mkhitaryan’s brilliance drowned it out. United keep rolling on, as their revitalisation continues. They’re finishing 2016 in the form fans had anticipated.
Pogba Improving With Every Game
Paul Pogba was in a class of his own on Monday, dominating the middle of the park from start to finish. If the attack had helped him in the first half, he might have been rewarded with another goal or assist earlier. He was best on the ground by a long way, standing head and shoulders above the rest.
His hold up play, and ability to drive the ball from deep is invaluable. United are lucky to have such a player in their ranks. Although Ander Herrera was somewhat quiet by his usual standards he was still good, whilst Michael Carrick directed traffic in a way only he can. Signing his replacement needs to become an increasing priority with every impressive display.
The Frenchman though is something else, and fans should be thanking their lucky stars that he came back to them this summer. He’s worth every penny and more.
Ibrahimovic Continues To Deliver
He’s done it again! Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored again for Manchester United, alongside providing his first two assists in the Premier League also by setting up Blind and Mkhitaryan. He easily slotted past Jordan Pickford after Pogba created the opening for him.
His 17 goals equalled both Michael Owen’s tally during his Manchester United career, and Anthony Martial’s top scoring tally of last season. The Swede’s quality is plain to see, and his doubters continue to eat their words. United’s reliance on their elder statesmen Carrick and Ibrahimovic is a concern, but right now it is working and working well.
Question for the second campaign is this; how many goals can he finish the season with?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has 50 goals in 2016. He’s thirty five years old.
— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) December 26, 2016
For a many apparently leaving the club not too long ago, Henrikh Mkhitaryan sure looks happy at Manchester United. He started from the bench in his return from injury. 3 chances created, 2 crosses, 2 shots & 1 goal in 31 minutes. His ability and creation is something the team just doesn’t have without him.
Oh, and of course his contender for goal of the season:
What a goal, Mkhiiiiiiiii! pic.twitter.com/8vHgPxxHo2
— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) December 26, 2016
It’s taken time, but his importance to the attack was on display when he wasn’t on the pitch. Juan Mata struggled, and was very passive. Jesse Lingard just doesn’t have the technical quality of the other attackers. Mkhitaryan is magic, and United need him to stay fit the rest of the campaign as they try to surge up the table.
Mourinho’s Recruitment Still Paying Dividends
It seems it only took until December for all of Jose Mourinho’s summer recruits to make a serious impact on their new clubs. Ibrahimovic and Pogba’s impact is undisputed, and they’ve been two of the best players not just at the club but the entire Premier League.
Bailly injuries aside has been United’s best central defender for the majority of the campaign, whilst Mkhitaryan’s impact in attack has changed the forward dynamic of the team. It’s not often every signing is a success but Manchester United have done it, whilst another recruit in January could really propel the team forward if Ed Woodward and Mourinho get it right.
Meanwhile Wayne Rooney missed out, and Mourinho’s handling of him has been sensational. He’s managed to transfer him to a role that suits his current ability without rocking the boat or cause controversy. Considering both’s standing within the game, that is quite an achievement.
Manager’s Reclamation Projects March On
Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones have continued their revitalisation under their new manager, and put in good performances once again with the South Americans particularly impressive. Rojo was a colossus in the middle, moving forward with the ball well and one of his runs led to Daley Blind’s opening strike.
Valencia is one of the club’s most reliable and solid members, and he’s been superb more often than not this season. Whilst he has regained the ability to get forward, his defensive improvement is what’s most impressive. A couple of the tackles performed against Sunderland were terrific.
Manchester United are now unbeaten in eleven games, moving on towards the new year and try to move their way up the table. They’ll need a bit of luck to go their way above them, but make no mistake; United are back in the race for the spots above them.