United finding their groove under Mourinho
It's early days, but Mourinho's United are making a loud statement
MAN UNITED 2
(Zlatan Ibrahimovic 36, 52-pen)
Evolution, not revolution, insisted a smiling, contented Jose Mourinho after Manchester United won their second straight match of the new EPL season yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Mourinho has tried to warn supporters not to expect too much too soon but no-one who watched their 2-0 win over Southampton can fail to have been impressed by how the self-styled Special One is already making his mark in what has always been his dream job.
Not all United fans, let it be said, were happy when Mourinho, who has a history of picking fights with just about anyone when things don't go his way, was appointed as Louis van Gaal's successor.
How would his outspoken, often disruptive style fit with United's global status as one of the three or four most iconic teams on the planet?
Would there be enough flair and creativity on show to satisfy the fans after so many dismal years by the club's own high standards?
Judging by their first couple of outings, the omens look good.
United hardly moved into third gear against the Saints and, as with all Mourinho teams, they were happy to concede possession in the full knowledge that they possessed the tools to get in front.
And once they did that, they slammed the door shut.
Gone, seemingly, is the cautious, disjointed, punchless approach so often displayed under van Gaal.
Instead, each and every one of Mourinho's players seems comfortable on the ball, working to a team ethic, never panicking.
Of course it's early days. Of course in the coming weeks and months, there will be times when Mourinho explodes with his trademark petulance and blames everyone but himself when his game plan fails.
But the signs, from what we have seen so far, look ominous for the rest of the EPL.
United may not yet be the finished article. They are a work in progress and, at times, Southampton exposed their lack of pace and need for greater defensive midfield cover.
But they are getting the ball forward far more quickly and look more robust, both physically and mentally.
It helps, of course, to have unlimited funds and the world's most expensive footballer at your disposal.
As debuts go, Paul Pogba could not have asked for a more successful display, marking the start of his second spell at Old Trafford with an indefatigable box-to-box performance that had the pundits positively purring with admiration.
On another day Pogba, who made several surging runs and had more touches and more passes in the opposing half than any teammate, would have received the Man-of-the-Match award, but it was little surprise when that accolade went to another of the stellar, box-office signings.
Anyone who thought Zlatan Ibrahimovic might not cut it in the EPL at the age of 34 would have surely already changed that assessment.
The Swede's two goals - the first a bullet header from Wayne Rooney's cross, the second a pinpoint penalty into the corner - made him an instant hero with the Old Trafford faithful and illustrated just how big an asset he will be over the coming months.
Ibrahimovic has now scored 41 goals in his last 31 league matches, a remarkable record going back to last season with Paris St Germain.
His self-confidence has never been in question. Indeed, like Mourinho, he has an arrogant, some might say conceited, streak about him.
But arrogance is often allied to rare talent.
While there is no doubting the rapport between Pogba and Ibrahimovic, it is a defender who may end up being Mourinho's most astute purchase in the desperate quest for the EPL title.
Eric Bailly already looks well worth the £30 million ($53m) that brought him to Old Trafford from Villarreal, displaying a composure and fearlessness sorely missed over recent seasons.
Money, of course, doesn't always buy you instant success. Neither do celebrity and fame always equate to Premier League points.
There are those who can't wait for Mourinho to fail, just as he did second time round at Chelsea. But he has a burning point to prove.
"We have brought back some of the United culture," said the Portuguese pointedly after yesterday's victory.
He will know, however, that with most of United's rivals also having spent big, it will be very much a marathon, not a sprint.