Man U stopped the leak in the ship with a 3-1win over Swansea City. The Guardian “Maybe José Mourinho should watch from the stand more often. Serving a touchline ban, the Manchester United manager savoured the sight of his team registering their first Premier League victory in five matches as well as Zlatan Ibrahimovic rediscovering his touch in front of goal on an afternoon when Swansea City capitulated and the simmering frustration among their supporters started to boil over.
Ibrahimovic struck twice – his first goals in the Premier League since 10 September – after Paul Pogba had opened the scoring with an exquisite shot from distance that set the tone for an embarrassingly one-sided first half in which Swansea were outplayed. United were 3-0 up inside 33 minutes and it felt like a trick of the mind that Mourinho’s team had come into this game short of confidence and facing so many questions about their form.
Swansea’s frailties were brutally exposed as United played with the belief and freedom that has been so badly missing of late. Michael Carrick, who was making his first Premier League start of the season, was excellent in the midfield holding role, Wayne Rooney thrived on the left and Ibrahimovic looked as if he was enjoying playing football again.
It was, in short, just what United needed after that chastening defeat against Fenerbahce in the Europa League on Thursday night and all the more satisfying for Mourinho given that he was forced to name such a makeshift defence. Phil Jones made his first appearance since January, Ashley Young was deployed at right-back, Marcos Rojo featured as an auxiliary centre-half and Matteo Darmian played out of position on the left. That the four of them barely broke sweat when it came to their defensive duties in the first half says everything about Swansea’s inept and listless performance.
Second from bottom in the Premier League and having picked up only two points from a possible 30 since their victory at Burnley on the opening day, Swansea are sleepwalking towards the Championship. The lack of commitment in the first half, when United had so much space and time on the ball, was arguably more worrying than the shortage of quality. Bob Bradley, who has picked up only one point from his first four games in charge, admitted he was angry.
The fans felt the same way, although their fury was directed more at the directors’ box than the players. “We want our club back” and “You greedy bastards, get out of our club” sang a section of supporters during the first half, with the board members who made millions out of the summer takeover the target of their ire. Huw Jenkins, the club’s chairman and a man who could do no wrong at one time, was also singled out for abuse on a day when Swansea were booed off at half-time and full-time.
“There’s only one way for us to win the support of the fans and that is to play better and take points,” Bradley said. “I know there’s some back and forth going on but from our side, the players and coaches, professionally we’ve got to focus on the only part we control, and that’s how we compete and fight for points. The fans were angry with us at half-time and I understand. The first half we did not do enough to win them over in any way and, with a 3-0 scoreline at half-time at home, they have every right to be angry at that point, and we have to be honest about the work that needs to be done.”
United’s first-half blitz started after 14 minutes and it was a quite brilliant goal that got them on their way. Mike van der Hoorn’s headed clearance was poor but Pogba, loitering about 22 yards from goal, showed wonderful technique to get over the top of a bouncing ball and send it arrowing into the top corner with his right boot.
Swansea looked shellshocked, United were moving the ball around with ease and it was no surprise when the visitors added a second. After a long period of United possession Rooney laid the ball back and Ibrahimovic, in an abundance of space, sidestepped Ki Sung-yueng’s half-hearted attempt to close him down before drilling a low shot from just outside the area that Lukasz Fabianski should have saved. Instead the ball slipped inside the Swansea goalkeeper’s near post and Ibrahimovic celebrated ending a run of 609 minutes without scoring in the Premier League.
The Swede soon had his second and United’s third. Linking well with Rooney in the centre of the pitch after neatly controlling David de Gea’s long ball upfield, Ibrahimovic traded passes with the United captain, shrugged off Àngel Rangel and lifted the ball beyond Fabianski. It was to all intents game over with almost an hour remaining.
Van der Hoorn reduced the deficit in the second half when he headed in Gylfi Sigurdsson’s free-kick and Modou Barrow was later denied by De Gea but there was never any prospect of a Swansea comeback and Juan Mata, expertly set up by Rooney, could easily have added a fourth.