When Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba signed for Manchester United this summer, there were some who believed they would win the league as a result. With Jose Mourinho in charge, the addition of these two world class players would surely make all the difference to United’s title hopes.
Both players started the season well, with Ibrahimovic scoring five goals in his first five games, and Pogba not looking as though he was suffering the consequences of having no pre-season following Euro 2016.
However, as the weeks went by, both players began to struggle. The Swede was the bigger disappointment and dragged Pogba down with him. On almost a weekly basis, the midfielder delivered inch perfect balls in to Zlatan, putting it on a plate. Ibrahimovic’s failure to add to his goal tally meant that Pogba couldn’t claim the assists he deserved.
Had Ibrahimovic scored United’s only good chance at Anfield, after Pogba put in a lovely cross from distance, both players could have been hailed as heroes for giving United a win over their rivals. In injury time at Burnley, when Pogba managed to find Ibra at the back post, both should have been carried off the field by their teammates for securing a very late three points, but the striker missed.
Ahead of United’s game against Swansea, another must-win fixture for Mourinho’s men, the pressure was on the team to get a result. With games against Arsenal, West Ham and Everton on the horizon, United simply couldn’t afford to throw any more points away.
Swansea being absolutely awful certainly helped, but United looked great on Sunday afternoon. The easy chances that they have been squandering in recent weeks were replaced with considerably more difficult opportunities, yet they scored them anyway. Pogba put United ahead before Ibrahimovic grabbed a brace for himself.
Pogba completed 94 passes, only misplacing four all afternoon, giving him a 96% passing accuracy. But this dominance from him in midfield is not a new thing.
He completed 86 passes against Burnley and Leicester, 79 against Hull, and so on. However, when it comes to the bigger games, Pogba doesn’t see anywhere near as much of the ball and his passing accuracy falls.
Clearly, the ability is there, with his strike against Swansea the latest example of a player capable of so much. “What a waste of money!” the United fans gleefully chanted in response, more than willing to bide their time when it comes to the Frenchman. Anthony Martial was written off in the same way last season but proved to be the best outfield player, coming second only to David de Gea, another to be mocked by rival fans in the early days.
It’s hard to imagine that Pogba won’t come good in the end but he needs that consistency and he needs to do the business in a big game.
Pogba was the last player to stop applauding the away fans and leave the pitch at Swansea, repeatedly grabbing the United crest on his shirt. It clearly means something to him to be back at United and he will obviously want to show that the club made the right decision to ask him to return.
With Ibrahimovic rediscovering his shooting boots, United fans will be hoping to see the two superstars linking up more successfully in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, the international break and the Swede’s suspension means the supporters will have to continue their weight a little longer, but with the hope it will be worth it in the end when the two players justify their status.