Manchester United secured another three points against Swansea City to extend their promising beginning to the 2017/18 campaign.
Bailly broke Swansea City’s defensive resistance on the verge of half-time, by stabbing home the follow-up from Paul Pogba’s saved headed effort.
Despite their half-hearted efforts of finding an equaliser, the hosts mentally collapsed in the closing ten minutes. Mkhitaryan collected two assists to provide Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba with goals in quick succession.
Anthony Martial, who has been left out of the starting line-up in Manchester United’s three previous competitive games, concluded a comprehensive victory with the fourth and final goal.
Swansea City defended resiliently in the first half but were unable to thwart the clinical attack of Manchester United. Bailly’s opener had a detrimental psychological effect on Swansea City, which led to their late car crash on home soil.
Manchester United collected victories in each of their opening three Premier League fixtures last season. They subsequently finished sixth place, but there is an incredibly positive vibe around Old Trafford, which is likely to build anticipation and increase expectations.
The next challenge for Jose Mourinho and his team will be to retain momentum throughout the 2017/18 campaign. They host Leicester City next Saturday, travel to Stoke City after the international break and accommodate Everton at Old Trafford in mid-September.
Nine points will be expected from their next three fixtures in the Premier League to enhance their early title pursuit. I can only see Manchester United retaining top spot in the early phase of the season, regardless of injuries or suspension due to their strength in depth.
Swansea City either need to find a replacement for Gylfi Sigurdsson or they’ll struggle in the final third this season. Tammy Abraham lacks the physical and aerial prowess to act as their talisman and was deprived of service due to their limited attacking options.
Swansea defensive resilience
The hosts started on the front foot, striking the bar inside the opening five minutes via Jordan Ayew. However, Romelu Lukaku immediately broke on the counter-attack, leaving Swansea City vulnerable at the back.
This was a huge eye opener for the swans, who dedicated their first half performance to building a resilient brick wall behind Manchester United’s attack. Their defensive display came at a cost, as it left them short of options in the final third.
Despite Mawson’s mistake, which gifted Rashford with a goal scoring opportunity, they were organized and efficient at the back. They showed they could deal with Manchester United’s attacking threat in opening play during the first half but their choice to zonally mark on set pieces ultimately cost them.
Phil Jones crashed his header against the face of the crossbar, after Bartley allowed the former Blackburn Rovers defender goal side of him. Unfortunately, they failed to learn from their earlier mistakes and conceded via another Manchester United set piece.
Here is how Swansea City set-up to defend Daley Blind’s corner, which led to Manchester United’s opening goal on 44 minutes. From this picture, you can see that they’ve decided to mark zonally, with Manchester United’s big men preparing to make runs into the penalty area from deeper positions
Eric Bailly, circled on the edge of the penalty area, concluded the set piece by stabbing in at the back post. His presence and run eluded the entire Swansea City defence, which suggests they need to practice on their awareness on set pieces.
Eric Bailly had now entered the penalty area once the corner had been taken by Daley Blind. Swansea are currently shepherding him away from danger, although they shifted across to the left hand side to gift Paul Pogba with a free header
Fortunately, the Frenchman’s darting header was magnificently clawed onto the cross bar by Swansea City goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
The Ivorian centre-back continued his run, whereas the three Swansea City players circled above shifted forward to allow him admission into the six-yard box. It was a naïve and foolish mistake, which cost them dearly as it had undone everything they’d built in the first half
Federico Fernandez was also culpable in failing to prevent Bailly from sneaking in at the back post to break the deadlock. Instead of attempting to clear the ball immediately, he elected to attempt to shield the ball from Bailly and protect Fabianski
However, Fabianski was unable to retreat to his feet, which gifted Bailly with a comfortable close range finish. After defending resiliently during the first half, one foolish mistake, left them with a one-goal deficit at the half-time break.
The swans lack of attacking options
They sat back and defended for the majority of the first half, despite an early spell on the front foot. Ayew’s bar-bound effort on five minutes proved to be their most significant goal scoring opportunity of the first half.
Rather than utilizing their wing backs in an attacking manor, Naughton and Olsson were restricted to deeper roles on the flank. This left Abraham and Ayew with a lack of options in the final third and they were continuously outnumbered by Manchester United’s defence.
In the picture above, Ayew shifted the ball into a promising position but only Abraham was present in the final third. Manchester United’s defence simply ganged up on the two Swansea City forwards and stifled their attack immediately.
The swans midfield seriously lacked the presence and quality, which was formerly supplied by Gylfi Sigurdsson. They played a flat midfield, which failed to penetrate the ball forward and create opportunities for the attackers.
In the second half, Paul Clement introduced Luciano Narsingh and Wayne Routledge to provide more attacking options and width. They ultimately enjoyed more possession in Manchester United’s half but failed to create any clear cut opportunities.
Last season, Swansea based their attacking approach on Spanish striker Fernando Llorente. He was their target man and was heavily relied upon to grab the goals, which seriously puts England under-21 striker Tammy Abraham under scrutinising pressure.
Contrasting Fortunes in Substitutions
Swansea City replaced Roque Mesa and Kyle Bartley for Luciano Narsingh in the 67th minute. Paul Clement had clearly identified their attacking ineptness and hoped to spice up their performance in the final third.
It worked on a short term basis, with the hosts enjoying more possession inside Manchester United’s half. However, Mourinho also had a plan stuffed up his sleeve, when he introduced Anthony Martial and Marouanne Fellaini.
Martial had an instant impact and carried the ball into space on the edge of the penalty area. Swansea City’s defence were encaptivated by the Frenchman and shifted across to deal with the threat he posed.
Mkhitaryan noticed this immediately and weaved a pass into Romelu Lukaku, who’s presence eluded the hosts’ back line. The Belgian striker took a touch to steady himself and applied a composed finish into the far bottom corner.
The visitors now had the momentum and launched a lethal counter-attack to punish Swansea for their complacency. Pogba stole the ball inside the opposition’s half, made a lighting run off the ball and applied a delicately dinked finish over the hapless Fabianski from Mkhitaryan’s reverse pass.
Paul Clement’s decision to attempt to play a more attacking style ultimately led to their destruction. Martial has played only 25 minutes in the past two games but grabbed his second goal of the season.
It was another clinical counter-attack from Manchester United and it was sublimely finished off by Martial. Many Manchester United supporters argue he should be included in the starting line-up. However, Martial is currently providing Rashford with the perfect competition to help develop his game.