Manchester United bounced back to form in style with a clinical 3-1 victory over Swansea City on Sunday afternoon.
A magnificent volley from Paul Pogba set the tone for the win early on, before two Zlatan Ibrahimovic strikes put the Reds firmly in control going into the break. Mike van der Hoorn’s header with 20 minutes remaining was no more than a consolation for the Swans, who did little to trouble David De Gea all afternoon.
Ahead of the game, Jose Mourinho – watching from the stands at the Liberty Stadium – made six changes from the midweek defeat to Fenerbahce, with Ashley Young, Phil Jones and Michael Carrick named among the starters in South Wales.
Amid chilly conditions and following an impeccably-observed minute’s silence, United started the game brightly and might have opened the scoring after just two minutes. Wayne Rooney, who scored with a stunning strike in Istanbul on Thursday, jinked past two defenders but curled a shot wide of goal.
The travelling supporters were in typically good voice, and had another screamer to celebrate with 15 minutes gone, as Rooney’s flick was headed away as far as Pogba, who hit a stunning volley into the corner from 25 yards.
It was a goal of true quality, one which even had home supporters applauding in the stands, and one Mourinho’s men almost added to shortly after. With Swansea still reeling, Matteo Darmian went on a run down the left and picked out Marouane Fellaini in acres of space, but the latter’s sidefooted shot bounced narrowly wide.
The Reds made no mistake with the next attempt on 21 minutes, however, as Rooney found Ibrahimovic in space on the edge of the box and, after taking one touch to get the ball out of his feet, the Swede fired a low shot beyond Lukasz Fabianski.
Not content with netting the 25,000th goal of the Premier League era, Ibrahimovic had another target in his sights, and found the net again just over 10 minutes later. This time, after more good link-up play with Rooney in the Swans’ half, the striker bundled his way into the area and finished powerfully to claim his 400th club career goal.
For all of Swansea’s struggles during the opening 45 minutes, it was a half that belonged to United, who went into the break having completely dominated the play.
Possession: Swansea 34% United 66%
Shots: Swansea 1 United 8
Shots on target: Swansea 0 United 3
Corners: Swansea 0 United 0
With the damage all but done, the Reds continued to dictate the tempo after the interval, particularly through Carrick, who was an important influence on his return to the side. There was a half-chance for Fellaini on 52 minutes after some neat build-up in midfield, but the Belgian was twice denied a chance to shoot inside the box.
By contrast, the hosts were finding it difficult to create anything of note, but had a rare shot through Gylfi Sigurdsson with 25 minutes remaining, an effort which the Icelandic midfielder dragged well wide of De Gea’s goal. They did, however, pull a goal back four minutes later. Sigurdsson delivered a free-kick into the area, and van der Hoorn rose highest to head the ball home from 10 yards.
With the clock ticking down, Juan Mata nearly added his name to the scoresheet following Rooney’s strong surge into the Swansea box, but the Spaniard’s low effort curled agonisingly past the post. A goal from substitute Modou Barrow might have made things interesting at the other end, but De Gea got down to block the winger’s scuffed effort.
Instead, United saw out the final minutes, with Rooney unfortunate to see a goal wrongly disallowed for offside, to claim a resounding and well-deserved win on the road, one which will come as a welcome boost following recent results ahead of the international break.
Possession: Swansea 37% United 63%
Shots: Swansea 6 United 9
Shots on target: Swansea 1 United 3
Corners: Swansea 2 United 0
Swansea: Fabianski, Rangel, van der Hoorn, Mawson, Kingsley, Routledge (Barrow 45), Ki, Britton (Fer 70), Sigurdsson, Borja, Llorente (Montero 45).
Subs not used: Nordfeldt, Naughton, Amat, Cork.
United: De Gea, Young, Jones, Rojo, Darmian, Carrick, Fellaini, Mata (Lingard 81), Pogba (Fosu-Mensah 90+3), Rooney (Schneiderlin 89), Ibrahimovic
Subs not used: Romero, Blind, Martial, Rashford.
Booked: Ibrahimovic, Mata.