Paul Pogba may have been the star attraction beneath the Friday night lights, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic stole the show at Old Trafford after his brace secured a 2-0 win over Southampton that keeps Manchester United top of the Premier League table.
The Swedish striker scored either side of half-time, firstly with a well-taken header and then from the penalty spot, as Jose Mourinho’s men dispatched the visitors in a comfortable fashion that will continue to fuel the belief that the team can challenge for the title this season.
The first home match of the season is always a special occasion for fans, yet this much-anticipated Old Trafford outing was elevated beyond the traditional sense of excitement in light of Pogba’s first appearance since returning to the club following a four-season spell at Juventus. The world-record signing’s every touch was cheered, particularly throughout the opening exchanges, and the stadium would have erupted had his shot from Ibrahimovic’s pass beaten Fraser Forster on 13 minutes.
Southampton did not excel in their first match under new manager Claude Puel, drawing 1-1 with Watford, yet they made a positive start at Old Trafford – firstly, by winning the coin toss and making United attack the Stretford End in the first half, which is against tradition. The Saints then registered shots at goal through Dusan Tadic and Shane Long, in spite of Oriol Romeu going off injured.
Wayne Rooney stung the palms of Forster with a rasping strike on the half-hour mark, and it was the captain who assisted the opener moments later. His superb cross from the right corner-flag was headed home at the back post by Ibrahimovic, the summer signing who made it three goals in as many competitive matches after his strikes in the Community Shield and at Bournemouth.