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Swansea City 0-4 Manchester United: Five things we learned

“Let the horses run freely”

As Anthony Martial steamed through the middle and guided an inch-perfect finish past Lukasz Fabianski, completing an emphatic few minutes of attacking brilliance, the camera panned over to Jose Mourinho. The rest of the Manchester United bench jumped up, but the Portuguese just gave a simple nod – the kind of nod that suggested he knew this would happen all along. He has been here so many times before.

“I felt in control, if you had a chance to look at me and my body language I think you could see that,” he said after the game. “Football is football and when you make a mistake you can concede so I never felt totally relaxed. I had players on the bench who could help me. Happiness in our play. It happened to me so much with my teams, you winning 1-0 and you can can concede. There was no need to close the door, just let the horses run freely.”

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His demeanour contrasts heavily with the surly, contemplative figure we saw sent to the stands twice last season. Mourinho’s first season was more about shifting United away from the psychological impasse imposed by Louis van Gaal than anything else, but now, with United ripping through lesser teams like they should, you can tell he feels like this is finally his team.

The Portuguese is blooming with confidence, and that rubs off on his players – something crystallised during a three minute and 41 second spell that saw Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku rip the very soul out of a spirited Swansea with an exhibition of menacing attacking brilliance.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan deserves a run of games at No.10

The Armenian only managed one assist in the Premier League last season; after just two games of the new campaign, however, he already has four. Swansea tried to make life difficult for diminutive playmaker, packing the midfield and using a back five, but his close control and manipulation of the ball was sublime.

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And when Paul Clement’s side started to wilt, perhaps committing too many men forward in search of an equaliser, Mkhitaryan was the silent killer at the heart of a ruthless vanguard of attacking splendour that claimed three goals before anybody could blink, providing inch-perfect assists for Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba. The latter was an example of his ability to stop an entire back four dead in its tracks with one pass. Simply incredible.

This was a masterclass of control, patience and cold execution, and Mourinho ought to give the 28-year-old a chance to make this position his own.

Luke Shaw will improve this team

Mourinho confirmed ahead of the clash with Swansea that Luke Shaw and Ashley Young would begin their pursuit of full fitness by playing for the reserves on Monday. The former, in spite of a torrid campaign, demonstrated his worth to Mourinho back in April after being publicly criticised for his work rate, and with United sending shockwaves across the country with their sheer speed and verve going forward, his return cannot come soon enough.

Daley Blind hasn’t done much wrong per se. The Dutchman can be best described as a safe pair of hands – solid on the ball and positionally astute – but he offered next to nothing going forward at the Liberty Stadium, leaving the frustrated Marcus Rashford to take on Swansea’s right hand side all on his own.

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With Antonio Valencia making headway on the right, having Shaw bombing forward on the other side would further open up teams and give either Rashford or Martial greater space to inflict damage. Supporters will just hope that, this time around, the Englishman remains fit.

United have a solid defensive partnership

Question marks loomed over which defensive partnership would feature during the early stages of the campaign with Marcos Rojo consigned to the sidelines until January. New signing Victor Lindelof “needs time”, according to his boss, and Chris Smalling is, well, Chris Smalling.

Thankfully, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly – ever since starting together in Houston against Manchester City – have been a formidable pair during these first two games. Swansea notably missed the creative guile of Gylfi Siggurdson and the imposing presence of Fernando Llorente on Saturday, but the likes of Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham have the makings of a solid attacking partnership.

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But United’s defensive duo were having none of it. Jones looks full of confidence following a strong pre-season, positioning himself well and cleverly manipulating the ball, whilst Bailly continues to steamroll anything that comes his way. He literally kicked the ball out of the stadium in the first half – a fitting microcosm for the way he deals with defenders. Mourinho will just pray that the pair stay fit.

This could be Paul Pogba’s season

Things weren’t going the Frenchman’s way in the first half. Clement’s game plan was simple: to squeeze and frustrate United’s £89m man, and it was working. He picked up a yellow card for a cynical foul on Tommy Carroll and struggled to wade past a litany of white shirts.

Last season, this could have invoked a downward spiral in which the 24-year-old, frustrated at his lack of influence, continued to dig himself deeper into a hole.

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But we saw a different kind of Pogba at the Liberty Stadium. The Frenchman kept a cool head and, sure enough, started to bend the game in United’s favour. He produced a dangerous cross that Kyle Naughton could only head behind and from the resulting corner crashed a header against the bar that Bailly poked home. The stage was now set. Swansea started to commit men forward and Pogba, in turn, made them pay, leading a spectacular late onslaught as Nemanja Matic controlled proceedings further back.

His goal oozed class, with the midfielder perfectly lifting the ball over a hapless Fabianski and gently into the net, before teeing up Martial for United’s fourth. He was the controller, orchestrator and, finally, the executioner. Pogba looks settled and bursting with confidence. It remains early days, but he has all the tools at his disposal to stand above the rest this season.

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By Kevin T

Kevin Thatcher is a freelance journalist who's work has featured in various national and international publications, including Mail Online & The Mirror. Kevin has been a Manchester United season ticket holder in South Stand for many years, and writes for RedMancunian to combine both his love for writing, and club.

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