Ibrahimovic and Pogba impress and Mkhitaryan adds late Man Utd flourish

Manchester United are now one of the Premier League’s in-form teams, having swept aside a Sunderland team that had conceded only once in their previous two games. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was again a decisive figure with a goal and two assists, while Paul Pogba also impressed as David Moyes was defeated on his return to Old Trafford.

Positives

Ibrahimovic, despite being quiet for much of the match, was lethal when it counted. Pogba was at the heart of this performance, showing a superb array of passing. Marcos Rojo and Antonio Valencia were particularly good when the game was goalless, both in defence and attack.

Negatives

Jesse Lingard looked half a step slow with his decision-making and, other than his goal, Daley Blind did not contribute as much as he could have done on a consistent basis and was also booked in the first half.

Manager rating out of 10

9 — Jose Mourinho kept faith with most of the team that won at West Brom nine days ago and his team put together as cohesive a performance as they have managed all season. Meanwhile, the manager’s growing belief in Mkhitaryan is also being rewarded.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK David De Gea, 7 — Was not at fault for Fabio Borini’s exceptional strike and made two good saves when the game was still goalless. Commanded his area as usual.

DF Antonio Valencia, 8 — His work ethic was again an example. One moment he was tracking all the way back to his own byline, the next he was on the end of a 60-yard Pogba pass. Also cut inside to aid the midfield, which resulted in United’s third goal.

DF Marcos Rojo, 8 — Another fine game. Got forward with confidence and got across while defending to stop Sunderland down their right flank, where they looked most dangerous.

DF Phil Jones, 7 — Typically uncompromising again, shutting down Sunderland’s limited threat wherever it arose and playing the ball out of defence with assurance.

DF Daley Blind, 7 — Replacing Matteo Darmian, he offered better width, greater overlapping and more attacking ambition, with the latter evidenced by his late arrival in the box for the game’s opening goal. Reasonably quiet in the second half, though.

Daley Blind scored the opener for Manchester United.
Daley Blind’s first goal of the season set Manchester United on the way to victory vs. Sunderland.

MF Ander Herrera, 7 — After a slightly sluggish start, misplacing passes that he would normally have completed, he then came into his own, pressing and playmaking at his usual high tempo.

MF Michael Carrick, 8 — Took up advanced positions as he tried to force the play, distributing the ball with his usual care and perceptiveness. Once again, was quietly essential in raising the pace and the range of play.

MF Paul Pogba, 9 — His long and short passing was excellent, while he struck the post with a curling effort and was also denied by the excellent Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Pogba’s assist summed up his game: He pressed two players by himself and dispossessed one of them, before running clear to set up Ibrahimovic for a straightforward finish.

FW Juan Mata, 7 — Prompted the attack in his usual understated fashion and also went close with a very good effort from a free kick. His quick passing was vital against such a deep-lying defence.

FW Jesse Lingard, 6 — Was industrious as usual but a fraction slow to take advantage of situations where a quick one-two might have released teammates or a softer pass could have played in someone. It is a game of fine margins and Lingard did not play within them today.

FW Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 8 — He was actually fairly quiet for much of the match and failed to convert a couple of fine opportunities. However, he was also lethal when it truly counted, first assisting Blind despite a massed defence, then strolling through for United’s second and, finally, providing a very good cross for Mkhitaryan’s magnificent volley.

Substitutes

FW Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 8 — Immediately adjusted to the pace of the game, with a strike that went narrowly wide and surged forward at will. He capped his superb cameo with an outstanding airborne backheeled volley that had even the most seasoned of watchers in shock.

FW Anthony Martial, NR — Perhaps slightly unlucky to be so much on the fringes of late, he came on and added crucial dynamism against tiring legs.

MF Marouane Fellaini, NR — Another appearance as a late substitute, but this one was wholly uneventful.=