Manchester United were relatively poor for twenty minutes before getting going, but Young Boys’ best efforts came from long range. From the second Paul Pogba magnificently put his team into the lead, Jose Mourinho’s team controlled this game with all the composure of one of those games we used to take for granted under Sir Alex Ferguson.
3-0 was an accurate representation of the game, and while neither the victory or performance is likely to change anyone’s view that a) United aren’t among the favourites to win this tournament or even b) this group is still going to be tough to get out of, neither should it be completely discounted. The result in Manchester last night shows that you shouldn’t take everything for granted.
Leading by example
On the weekend it was mentioned in this column that Paul Pogba’s performance reflected that of United and it was much the same in Switzerland last night. Once Pogba decided he was going to show up, so did his team.
It seems like an odd criticism to level at the Frenchman after a 3-0 win that has his fingerprints all over it, but there remains the idea that his languid style is a conflict to the clinical style Jose Mourinho seems to prefer. When you look at the execution of the third goal and the way that Pogba, Lukaku, Rashford and goalscorer Martial swarmed on the home defence, you can’t help but come away with the impression that the talented quartet are playing within themselves. No problem when you win so handsomely, of course.
Round Pegs in Round Holes
You don’t have to go back too long for a game when United played two full backs and two centre halves in defence — it was the first game of this season — but it was the first time in a long time that United have looked like they fielded a defence that would satisfy the Trade Descriptions Act.
So here are the cautious caveats. Matteo Darmian started his career at the club impressively. And there are some concerns about the quality of Diogo Dalot’s crossing, while there were one or two issues about his positioning that you hope will improve through experience, and hopefully, familiarity.
Such a theory can also help give an experienced player like Chris Smalling the benefit of the doubt. Smalling, like a cat whose nine lives apparently were up so long ago you think he’s been reincarnated as a feline a dozen times, might well have been a victim of United’s full-back problems. Only time will tell.
Sixty Years Too Late
The game was only four days out from the sixtieth anniversary of the teams meeting for the first and only time in Switzerland before last night. Then, a United team ravaged by the tragedy of Munich made the trip after being drawn against their Swiss opponents following a generous invitation from UEFA to participate in the European Cup. As the Football League vetoed United’s participation, the tie was played as a friendly.
In this sixtieth anniversary year of the disaster, then, it was fitting that the tie between the clubs has finally taken place. For different reasons, then, as now, Young Boys were facing a Manchester United team trying to reestablish its own identity.