Four talking points from Mourinho’s Man Utd home debut v Southampton
Holly Thackeray | August 20, 2016
Four talking points from Man Utd v Southampton
The first Friday Night Football fray of the season saw two rather notable home debuts occur, as Manchester United saw off Southampton 2-0 at Old Trafford courtesy of a deadly Zlatan Ibrahimovic double.
There were talking points galore in the Friday fray, as Paul Pogba returned to the Old Trafford nest and Jose Mourinho strolled the sidelines for the first time as home boss in a Premier League match.
While, Southampton and new coach Claude Puel (on his own away bow), also have plenty of food for thought as they remain winless.
So, on reflection, we’ve rounded up four things of note after the Red Devils (6/1 with Coral to win the EFL Cup) duelled with the Saints. Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below…
Pogba passes limelight to to others
The narrative for prodigal Old Trafford son Pogba was that the Frenchman had returned ‘home’, and his second shot at a Premier League debut in Man Utd colours certainly caused a stir.
For those that were expecting £89m pounds worth of performance, midfield dynamo Pogba was certainly lacking in the stats department with neither a goal or assist to boast.
In the first few minutes, the world record signing looked rather nervy, his first touch letting him down and letting Saints break upfield.
Yet, on second showing, Pogba’s overall outing was accomplished if lacking the marquee moment, hinting at more to come to justify his price tag. According to the BBC, he “had more passes (71), touches (103), shots (4) and won more duels (20) than any other United player”.
While pundit Ryan Giggs added: “It was a brilliant, brilliant performance when you take into consideration he’s only trained for a week, the price tag and he’s still only 23.”
Shielding the ball with his strength, putting opponents in the shade with physical prowess, sublime moments ghosting past opponents, trademark clipped passes over the top and skill in tight spaces all point toward an encouraging transition.
An overall intelligent outing, in which Pogba sought to drive the team forward may not have provided Sky Sports with fodder for their highlight reel, but should be a better sign for fans of his ability to keep the team ticking over than a rocket blast.
Strides ahead of many of Mourinho’s other options, it still looks as though Pogba would operate better with a freer role in a midfield three with absent Michael Carrick brought back in to anchor deep and shield. Which brings us handily on to the next point…
Mourinho’s mind not made up on Man Utd formation?
In games against elite teams that can punish slips like Pogba’s opening gaffes, will Mourinho’s Man Utd stick to two traditional midfielders in a 4-2-3-1?
That system worked well against Saints, but when the Manchester derby arrives in September, there is still speculation as to whether Pogba would be pinned down as a pivot, or whether the Portuguese coach would tinker ever so slightly with the team.
A 4-3-3 with an extra midfield man, or Pogba pushed up to the Wayne Rooney role would present interesting options for bigger games when more control may be needed and when surrendering possession so much can be perilous.
Mourinho, at least, did not seem to rule out Pogba playing a different role to that which he occupied against Southampton, stating: “We have different ways to play. One day he can play even more offensively than he did today, but he’s a player that needs that freedom.
“He has to play free… we have to build a certain organisation around him.”
With Ibrahimovic notably taking over penalty duties from Rooney, does this hint that the England skipper’s standing may become slightly reduced for certain matches? With so many midfielders such as Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin jostling for space, it looks a proposition.
Fellaini finally finding himself at Old Trafford
Belgian bruiser Marouane Fellaini has not always been the most popular player with fans on the red half of Manchester, since his arrival from Everton under David Moyes in 2013.
Yet, the battle axe has a habit of popping up with key goals and under Mourinho has found himself starting three successive games.
Fellaini certainly looks on his way to becoming a fixture Man Utd fans will have to learn to love and, as he keeps bringing his all, and a disruptive physical presence, on the pitch it is becoming increasingly tough to argue against his inclusion.
Not as silky skilled and composed as Carrick, or as sharp as Herrera perhaps, but Fellaini finally has a clearly carved out task sheet, with Mourinho utilising his height advantage and telling press: “Fellaini in my opinion was superb.
“Maybe a simple phone call the day after my presentation as Manchester United manager changed a lot because I told him ‘forget everything you read, for me you don’t leave, for sure’,” said the tricky tactician.
“Then I think the more organised the team play, the easier for the players it is to feel confident.”
Southampton need a new striker
Onto Southampton now, and the Saints may want to consider dipping into the transfer window for a striker before it slams shut until Christmas.
One goal in two games under new gaffer Puel is nothing to shout home about, and neither is the failure to collect three points so far.
The French coach will take time to create the team in his own image and away from Ronald Koeman’s design, but the process would surely be smoother if Italy goal gobbler Graziano Pelle had been adequately replaced.
Republic of Ireland international Shane Long is a useful player for the Saints, but red-blooded regular sharpshooter he is not – with the forward’s tally of 10 last term his best-ever haul in the Premier League aged 29.
A fantastic foil rather than a main man, Long needs a partner. If Charlie Austin is not believed to be capable of filling Pelle’s boots, then a new name should be parachuted in hastily.
It was not as though Saints did not have chances on a platter several times, but the difference between a top half finish can often be ruthlessness, and the south coast club lacked that precisely in Manchester.
Take a look at our dedicated Premier League page for more on Man Utd and Southampton.