Saturday, March 31, 2018 15:00
Sir Matt Busby Way, Central, Manchester, M16 0RA, United Kingdom
Homeground of Manchester United
Manchester United Vs Swansea City 2 - 0
Played Saturday, March 31, 2018 Old Trafford
Back in December, Jose Mourinho admitted that the £300m he has spent rebuilding Manchester United’s squad is ‘not enough’ to compete with their rivals from across the city and, since then, criticism has been in abundance about the Portuguese’s tactics as well as the form of his recent acquisitions. However, Romelu Lukaku’s 100th Premier League goal of his career and arguably Alexis Sanchez’s best performance since joining from Arsenal ensured that concerns about the pair were well and truly buried at Old Trafford, as well as the Swans’ hopes of avoiding their third defeat of the season at the hands of Mourinho’s team.
It didn’t take long for Lukaku to strike, although his 100th Premier League goal, coming only five minutes after kick-off, was somewhat fortuitous. Some neat interplay between Lingard and Sanchez released Lukaku 20 yards from goal and, while the Belgian’s first touch from the Chilean’s sharp pass lacked elegance, the intervening foot of Alfie Mawson ensured that his scuffed shot ended up on target. Lukaku’s surprise when the ball hit the back of the net was more than evident, but it was enough to secure his place as the 28th player to bag a century of Premiership goals and the fifth youngest to do so.
Minutes later, Lukaku leapt onto an inspiring long pass from midfield, his curling low drive from the right of the penalty area being deftly palmed away by Fabianski in the Swansea goal.
If Lukaku’s goal benefitted from an element of luck, there was no doubt about Sanchez’s impact on the game, driving United into a comfortable two-goal lead after 20 minutes from which Swansea were unable to recover. A cutting pass that split the Swansea defence, again from Lingard, straight between the feet of Mike van der Hoorn, was expertly despatched into the bottom left-hand corner of the net, adding a creative spark that’s been missing from United’s forward play for so long and no doubt offering some measure of relief to his under-fire manager.
In fact, United could have been four ahead, with Lingard also coming to close to scoring, pulling a low drive wide and having a goal ruled out for offside. And while Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten record against Swansea never looked to be at risk, David de Gea yet again provided lifesaving action by twice denying Tammy Abraham in the United goal after the half-time interval.
United closed down the game later on, although chances went awry for Juan Mata and Lukaku to add to the score, but it was a brighter, more incisive performance than United fans have become accustomed to in recent times.
With seven games to go, United are cementing their position as runners-up to their city rivals, with defeat at the Etihad in the Manchester derby next weekend guaranteed to send the Premiership title to Pep Guardiola’s men.
For Swansea, the five-point buffer that keeps them out of the relegation zone will not be comfortable with six games remaining, although their next – against managerless West Bromwich Albion – will arrive as a timely opportunity to secure three valuable points.