Manchester United made it two comfortable wins from two Premier League games at the start of the season with an impressive victory over Swansea City.
Eric Bailly prodded home his first United goal from close range on the stroke of half-time before Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and substitute Anthony Martial scored in a deadly three-minute spell late on to give the scoreline a more convincing look.
After brushing aside West Ham at Old Trafford last Sunday, United issued another early statement of intent and have begun the campaign with back-to-back 4-0 wins, signalling the club’s best start to a season for 110 years.
The Reds made the trip to a sunny South Wales in buoyant mood and Jose Mourinho named an unchanged team from the side that recorded his biggest Premier League win as United boss last weekend.
In an open start to the game, both sides had early opportunities as Swansea’s Jordan Ayew burst down the left flank and his cross with the outside of his left foot clipped the top of the crossbar, before Lukaku flashed a shot wide of the post as United broke quickly at the other end.
It was United’s turn to hit the woodwork in the 10th minute as Phil Jones met a pinpoint Juan Mata free-kick from the left-hand side and saw his close-range header rebound back off the crossbar.
The early tempo dissipated somewhat, with both teams offering an occasional threat but niggly fouls often broke up the rhythm. Up against a rigid Swansea back five, the Reds struggled to create clear-cut chances but got the all-important breakthrough on the stroke of half-time as Bailly reacted well to poke home on the goalline after Pogba’s header from Daley Blind’s corner came back off the underside of the bar.
With confidence high after opening the scoring, United began the second half brightly as Henrikh Mkhitaryan drilled an effort wide and Pogba curled a free-kick off target from 20 yards.
As he did against West Ham last week, Mourinho sent on Marouane Fellaini and Martial in place of Mata and Marcus Rashford and the latter helped to inspire another late goal glut as the Reds seized control and ran riot in the closing stages with three goals in the space of just four minutes.
Fresh from scoring twice on his Old Trafford debut last weekend, Lukaku got on the scoresheet again as he collected Mkhitaryan’s pass and rifled past Swansea keeper Lukasz Fabianski.
Just as they did against the Hammers last time out, Pogba and Martial both got in on the act as substitutes, with Pogba clipping in a delightful finish from another incisive Mkhitaryan ball before turning provider for his French compatriot Martial, who ran to the edge of the box and rolled the ball into the far corner from eight yards to round off another resounding win for United in the first away game of 2017/18.
Swansea City: Fabianski; Naughton, Fernandez (c), Bartley (Routledge 67), Mawson, Olsson; Roque Mesa (Narsingh 67), Fer, Carroll; Ayew, Abraham (McBurnie 82).
Subs not used: Nordfeldt, van der Hoorn, Angel Rangel, Fulton.
United: De Gea; Valencia (c), Bailly, Jones, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mata (Fellaini 75), Mkhitaryan (Herrera 85), Rashford (Martial 75); Lukaku.
Subs not used: Romero, Lindelof, Smalling, Lingard.
Lukaku offers more than just goals
Romelu Lukaku exemplified why he can offer United something different and more than just a goal threat, while bringing an extra dimension to the game. The Belgian frontman chased and harried every ball, occupying Swansea’s three centre-backs well and often dropping deeper into pockets of space in order to start attacks. As all good strikers do, he rounded off his performance by finding the back of the net late on and once again showed plenty of promise, which bodes well for the season ahead. The 24-year-old also became only the fifth player to net in his first two league outings for United after Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Louis Saha, Marcus Rashford and Federico Macheda.
Jones and Bailly working well
Once again, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly lined up at the heart of the United defence and the pair put in another solid performance. The two centre-backs were rarely tested against West Ham last week but had more defending to do, up against Swansea’s athletic forwards Tammy Abraham and Jordan Ayew. The pair read the game and communicated well throughout to ensure the hosts were kept at bay. Bailly capped his excellent display with his first goal since joining United last summer, while Jones was among the candidates for the club’s Man of the Match award.
Mkhitaryan the creative force
United fans became accustomed to seeing Henrikh Mkhitaryan pulling the strings as last season wore on and the Armenian illustrated his ability to be United’s chief playmaker against the Swans, constantly on the move, keeping the ball moving and using his intelligence to know where Rashford and Lukaku were at all times. He instigated many of United’s best attacking moments and was inspirational as United carved open the Swans late on, providing two pinpoint passes for Lukaku and Pogba to score. As was often the case last term, Mkhitaryan can be pleased with his personal contribution to a brilliant team display. After just one league assist in 2016/17, he has already recorded four so far this term!
WHAT’S NEXT FOR UNITED?
The Reds complete the first month of the new season by welcoming 2015/16 Premier League champions Leicester City to Old Trafford for an evening kick-off next Saturday, 26 August. United beat the Foxes three times last season, including in the Community Shield, and will be confident of building on an encouraging start to the league campaign by making it three wins out of three.