Manchester United cruised to a 3-1 win over Sunderland thanks to an emphatic display by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Manchester United came into the game hoping to make it four wins out of four Premier League matches and continue their December run while David Moyes returned to Old Trafford with his Sunderland side aiming to snatch a result against his former employers.
The Red Devils were thoroughly dominant on the pitch but it took a brilliant effort from Daley Blind to open the scoring as the first-half ended 1-0. It was more of the same in the second half, with United running rampant against Sunderland.
Paul Pogba set up Zlatan Ibrahimovic for United’s second of the night while Henrikh Mkhitaryan sealed the victory off with a wonderful scorpion kick goal from a Zlatan Ibrahimovic cross. Sunderland did peg one back thanks to a fabulous Fabio Borini effort but it ended up being nothing more than a consolation.
The Hard Tackle discusses a few talking points to emerge from what was a truly dominant performance by Manchester United.
Ibrahimovic influence telling on Manchester United
Zlatan is what Zlatan does. A sentence which the Premier League had heard all too many times but had failed to fathom the magnitude of truth that lies in it. But the Swede has proven it once again – this time at a league which is termed as the toughest and the most tasking – at the ‘youthful’ age of 35.
Only Lionel Messi (51) has scored more club goals this year than Zlatan Ibrahimovic ? pic.twitter.com/zBzKASHvYQ
— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) December 27, 2016
The 35-year-old stoke the show against the Black Cats as he scored and created two to set up a 3-1 win for the Red Devils. The goal marked Zlatan’s 50th of the calendar year, which puts him behind only to Lionel Messi; which is extraordinary, given the player’s age.
At 35, Zlatan continues to defy the odds, and with aplomb. As Jamie Carragher very beautifully put it, in a transfer window where player transfer fees touched new horizons, the best signing has been the one that has arrived at Manchester United for free.
You cannot help but marvel at the current brand of football being played by Manchester United and Zlatan is a very crucial cog, acting both as a creator and a finisher. For, when it comes to Zlatan, multitasking is the norm.
Priceless Pogba starting to justify price tag
Criticized and ridiculed, Paul Pogba has now started to show signs of just what Manchester United have invested in. The Frenchman has been given a bit more freedom, thanks to the duo of Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera, and he has made the most of this.
£89m down the drain, as Paul Pogba makes another football match look like a training session again.
— Adam ♦️ (@MinimumMartial) December 26, 2016
Pogba was unplayable at times and was unlucky to not get on the scoresheet. It is a joy to watch the Frenchman do the things he does in the way that he does it. Such effortless displays that exude class have now become a constant feature in every Manchester United fixture.
Paul Pogba’s game by numbers vs. Sunderland:
83% pass accuracy
3 tackles won
Ran the show pic.twitter.com/9zdrvozoea
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 26, 2016
And, on Boxing Day, the midfielder ran the Black Cats amuck. United have many big players on their roster right now. But, in Pogba, they have a player who is capable of bossing the Premier League for the next decade.
Magic from Mkhitaryan
The Armenian has endured a rather tough time at Manchester United and has received some critiques, like the aforementioned duo. But, unlike the two, Mkhitaryan was almost left powerless as he wasn’t included in the starting lineup time and again, which meant he could not even prove his critics otherwise.
But the player has been slowly integrated into the lineup and he has responded in great fashion. With dazzling runs, great speed and the inherent ability to beat defenders with ease, the Armenian has carved out a place in Jose Mourinho’s plans and has become a constant feature for the Red Devils now.
— Red Army! (@RedorDead07) December 26, 2016
His performance on Boxing day, all of 31 minutes, brought the Old Trafford to their feet and the 27-year-old capped it off with a real beauty that one is certain that it has been played over and over by not only United fans but neutrals and football lovers all across the world.
A performance full-of-heart by Sunderland’s David Moyes
Yes, Sunderland were completely dominated by Manchester United on Boxing day. But they did have their fair share of chances. A first-half error in defence almost handed the Black Cats a goal but Anichebe failed to connect well with just De Gea to beat.
Fabio Borini, Liverpool goal-poaching legend, continuing his glorious career at Sunderland with this goal a… https://t.co/gLsN8ktAQo
— justin lew block (@JBlock49) December 26, 2016
And, to be very honest, Manchester United were heavy favourites going into the match, so it is not too surprising that they cruised to victory. But David Moyes and Sunderland can take heart from the late goal and the amount of chances they created despite seeing very little of the ball.
Calm Carrick the glue
While a 35-year-old has been making waves up-front for Manchester United, another veteran is making sure the whole lineup ticks. Michael Carrick’s presence has added assurance to the back four while also creating space for Paul Pogba to venture forward.
Man Utd’s form when Michael Carrick has played this season:
Goals scored: 35
Pulling the strings pic.twitter.com/R9jn7FgZDb
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 26, 2016
It is no surprise that Manchester United have been utterly dominant with Carrick in the lineup and his absence has been telling both in terms of performances and results. The Red Devils have not lost a single game with Carrick in the starting lineup for 31 games in a row now and it is a record that doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.