Saturday 24 February 2018

Nemanja Matic enjoying the pressure of playing for 'special' Manchester United

Manchester United's Paul Pogba celebrates scoring their third goal with Nemanja Matic
Manchester United's Paul Pogba celebrates scoring their third goal with Nemanja Matic

Alex Bywater

Jose Mourinho called him “my perfect signing”. And it is easy to see why after Nemanja Matic continued his superb start to his Old ­Trafford career since a £40 million move from Chelsea.

The champions’ decision to let him leave looks more bewildering by the game as Matic continued to make United tick. But the midfielder was quick to point out: “This is just the beginning, but it gives us a lot more confidence.

“We’ve had two games and both have been 4-0 so I think we are in a good way. It’s just the beginning of the season, but I am confident.

“It’s always special when you play for Manchester United and there is always pressure, but we are ready to cope with that. We have a great squad and everyone is a great player. I really enjoy it here.

“The group is great, we are all friends in the changing room and that’s very important. The season is long, so we have to have a good group, have good communication, and this team has that. I’m happy to be a part of this.” At the end of this comfortable win at the Liberty ­Stadium, Manchester United’s ­supporters celebrated by chanting the name of manager Mourinho.

The Old Trafford manager ­responded by pointing to his ­players on the field, emphasising his belief that it was them, not he, who should be the subject of praise.

Mourinho, of course, is used to being centre stage, but the Portuguese was right to step out of the limelight. Victory over Swansea City made it back-to-back wins in ­United’s opening two games of the Premier League campaign and, while the quality of both Paul ­Clement’s men and West Ham has to be taken into account, the old ­adage that you can only beat what’s in front of you remains true.

In South Wales, United never looked like suffering defeat and ran riot late on as Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial all scored within five minutes to add to Eric Bailly’s tap-in just before the break. United’s fans were in fine voice come full-time.

United have a number of men who have started the campaign with a bang. Lukaku and Pogba look up for the title fight, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Phil Jones also impressed at the Liberty Stadium. “We took a lot of confidence from last week into this, but we’re not getting carried away,” said Jones. “We’re two games into the season and we’ve got another tough game against Leicester next week which won’t be easy. I’m just pleased to be playing. Any player would be lying if they told you they didn’t want to be playing.

“There are a lot of games to come, but we’re a tight-knit squad and we all get along well. We don’t have any cliques or groups and that’s showing on the pitch.”

Mourinho’s record in his second season is well known and has ­already got United fans dreaming of the title. Against a five-man Swansea defence, United eventually broke through right at the end of the first half when Pogba’s header was tipped on to the bar by Lukasz Fabianski and Bailly tapped home for his first United goal.

After the break, Swansea boss Clement switched to a back four in search of a way back into the game. The excellent Mkhitaryan promptly set up goals for Lukaku and Pogba, before Martial rose off the bench to apply the coup de grace for the ­second successive week.

United don’t play a traditional top-six club until they travel to ­Liverpool on Oct 16. By then, ­Mourinho’s mood could have ­improved even further from the smiling face we saw at the Liberty.

For Swansea, things are different. The way they were picked off by United late on will concern Clement, as will the lack of cutting edge. The £45 million received from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s move to Everton must be invested quickly.

“Ideally we would have someone in tomorrow, but at this moment that looks unlikely,” Clement said.

“Business is going back and forward between various parties and the most important thing is that we get the right players in before the window closes. I would like to think we could do something before the next game. I want three players, but they have to be good players. We’re looking at midfield and forward.”

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