Sunday 17 December 2017

Zlatan Ibrahimovic writes the headlines with debut goal but United defence remains a worry

Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Action Images via Reuters / Henry Browne
Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic Action Images via Reuters / Henry Browne

Jack de Menezes

The thousands of Manchester United fans in Gothenburg left the Ullevi Stadium delighted with the evening’s entertainment. Seven goals, a Zlatan Ibrahimovic bicycle kick to score on his United debut on home soil and what appeared to be a Jose Mourinho masterclass. But if there was anyone who would be understandably unhappy, look no further than the manager himself.

Mourinho may have celebrated with his arms in the air as Juan Mata clipped in United’s fifth goal, but it was their terrible defensive performance with what appeared to be their strongest line up in the first half that will be cause for concern.

United went in at the break 2-1 down to a Galatasaray side that on paper should have been cannon fodder for Mourinho’s star-studded side. With the new manager able to call on the likes of Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney for the first time this season, he picked what is expected to be the side that run out against Bournemouth in a fortnight’s time.

Ibrahimovic will take the headlines. After all, who else would have the audacity to attempt an overhead kick less than four minutes into your debut for a club the size of United? But it was the architect of the goal, Antonio Valencia, who deserves all the plaudits.

The Ecuadorean terrorised left-back Lionel Carole and departed midway through the second half with three assists to his name, all the while playing in the right-back problem position. His first wasn’t the best cross of his career, but Ibrahimovic’s imagination salvaged the moment and he quickly adjusted to volley the ball home, albeit via a mis-hit that was shinned into the ground and beyond Fernando Muslera in the Galatasaray goal.

The Turkish side regrouped well though, and 18 minutes later they were level. Ibrahimovic went from hero to zero as he gave away free-kick less than 10 yards outside of the United area, and the one-time United transfer target Wesley Sneijder delivered an inch-perfect cross for Sinan Gumus - marked dreadfully by Ibrahimovic - to head past David De Gea.

Galatasaray went ahead in the 40th minute when the impressive Bruma was given too much space in range of United’s goal. The Portuguese forward played a neat one-two with Sneijder that opened up the space to curl a lovely effort around De Gea and into the right corner of the net.

United needed half-time, and whether or not the Mourinho factor kicked in, only the players will know. The Portuguese sent for the cavalry, with Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Michael Carrick and Marcus Rashford all introduced at the break.

What followed was some of the best football United have played in the three and a bit years since Sir Alex Ferguson shook up the scene in Manchester by leaving the club. It may have been a pre-season friendly, but in Rashford and Lingard, Mourinho received a timely reminder that sometimes youth is the answer, no matter how much you spend on the world’s most expensive player.

Valencia proved to be the provider of the second goal as his cross found Rooney little more than eight yards from goal, with the captain flicking the ball first time into the goal. Three minutes later, Rooney had his second and United had their lead back. Rashford burst clear after a through ball from Carrick, and as he rounded Muslera, the England international was tripped to result in a penalty that Rooney duly drilled low and into the net.

A fourth followed just four minutes later when Valencia again crossed deep and Fellaini jumped above right-back Martin Linnes to loop a header over Muslera. United kept attacking and by now Galatasaray were not creating anything close to a half-chance. The inevitable fifth was the pick of the bunch as Mata, perhaps knowing he has something to prove to Mourinho, spun on the defence and broke free. The Spaniard slid the ball right to Carrick, who from the edge of the area managed to cut across his body and provide a low cross for Mata to stroke home and seal the win.

United looked a different team going forward, but when they were tested at the back they came up incredibly short, and Mourinho will not have learnt much from his defensive replacements given that Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Marcus Rojo and Matteo Darmian – playing on the left flank – faced little threat.


Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Herrera; Mkhitaryan, Rooney, Martial; Ibrahimovic.

Substitutes: Johnstone, Romero, Darmian, Jones, Rojo, Carrick, Fellaini, Lingard, Mata, Memphis, Young, Rashford.

Galatasaray: Muslera; Linnes, Chedjou, Hakan, Carole, Selçuk, Dzemaili, Yasin, Sneijder, Bruma, Sinan.

Substitutes: Gonen, Aziz, Altintop, Donk, Bassan, Dursun, Unsal, Sarioglu, Iscan, Guney, Vatansever.

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