Not since 1907 have United begun a season scoring four goals in their first two games and while they have faced West Ham and Swansea, clubs who seem to have emerged from the summer without a clear idea of the kind of teams that they want to be, it does at least seem that Mourinho’s players know. Pogba was the game’s standout player, surviving a challenge on Martin Olsson that might well have been a yellow card had Jon Moss not given him one earlier for a foul on Tom Carroll.
Pogba looms over the every aspect of the game, the kind of player whose considerable presence must appear in the peripheral vision of just about every opponent when in possession of the ball. He seemed to be there at every critical moment of the game, winning a corner late in the first half, winning the subsequent header that led to Eric Bailly’s first goal, and then in the second half, the Frenchman led the way again.
Pogba’s form is a continuation of that devastating performance he turned in for France against England in Paris at the end of last season, a combination of the physicality and the delicate touch that he showed in scoring United’s third of the afternoon. Between them, Pogba and Lukaku now have five goals in two games and it is Pogba whose personality seems to be key to this team – when he is confident and diligent, then so are United.
Mourinho did not feel that the decision of referee Moss, an official with whom he has history, to award the first yellow card was justified, let alone the second that never came. Paul Clement could not bring himself to claim a missed dismissal either and he has more pressing concerns on his mind.
Swansea have barely had an effort on goal in their first two games, and the closest they came this time was Jordan Ayew’s clever shot with the outside of his right foot in the first half which grazed David De Gea’s crossbar from an unexpected angle. Tammy Abraham, on loan from Chelsea, showed some nice touches on his first team home debut with Fernando Llorente still out, it looks like a tall order to ask the teenager to shoulder all the burden.
Mourinho expressed the hope on Clement’s behalf that he would get the £45 million from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s sale to spend on the team, the kind of remark the Swansea manager would probably rather someone else had made. Clement also lamented the absence of the injured Ki Sung-yueng and yet he could make no guarantees about new arrivals before Swansea play Crystal Palace next Saturday.
Clement was also angry about his team’s concentration wavering at the end of the first half, when they conceded what he considered a rare goal direct from a set-piece. Bailly had already put one clearance on the roof of the main stand before he was the one who reacted the quickest to score when Fabianski made a good save from Pogba’s header.
In defence alongside Bailly, Phil Jones kept his place and was impressive again, heading against the bar from a corner. It might have been different for Marcus Rashford – who faded in the second half before eventually being substituted – if he had finished on 36 minutes. Booed for his dive in the fixture at Old Trafford last season, he had torn through the Swansea defence only to poke a lame shot at Fabianski.
Rashford has an urgency about him that suggests he knows that patience is limited, and he started strongly only to lose his way. The challenge this season will be maintaining the freedom to his game that made him a success in the first place. He came off when Mourinho made his changes with 15 minutes to go, at a point when United had at times been on the back foot. Clement had earlier switched from a three-man defence to a 4-3-3 formation and tried to put some pressure on Daley Blind at left-back, United’s weakest link in the back four. Mourinho responded by bringing on Martial and then Marouane Fellaini into the midfield at the expense of Mata.
“I don’t want to be the kind of manager who is happy to lose 1-0 at home,” Clement said, and once his five-man defence had been dismantled, United’s response was impressive. Henrikh Mkhitaryan claimed two of the assists as the space opened up, redirecting the ball from Martial’s driving run into the path of Lukaku. Then the Armenian did the same for Pogba who lifted the ball over Fabianski, having intercepted Carroll’s ball to begin the move.
Swansea had coped badly with the tactical switch and the fourth transformed the scoreline into something much more painful for the home crowd, Pogba again involved before Martial cut onto his right foot and picked a spot in the corner. Mourinho reminded everyone that United had won the first two games of last season and he did not have to add that they were nothing like title challengers come May. A certain confidence has returned to United that has not always been detectable in this team over the last four years.