Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice and Paul Pogba excelled in his first game back at Manchester United as the team’s high-profile offseason signings starred in a 2-0 win over Southampton in the Premier League on Friday.
The good times appear to be back at Old Trafford, with Ibrahimovic’s towering header in the 36th minute and penalty in the 52nd earning United a second straight victory to open the league season.
Ibrahimovic has already scored three league goals, to complement his winner in the Community Shield against Leicester. As pleasing to United manager Jose Mourinho will be the way Pogba slotted into the side in his first appearance since a world-record $116 million transfer, displaying his range of tricks, vision and box-to-box energy.
United beat Bournemouth 3-1 in its opening game.
Pogba was given a warm reception in his first game in the famous red of United at Old Trafford since a substitute appearance against West Bromwich Albion in March, 2012. He was a lanky, raw 19-year-old then; he returns to United as a powerfully built star of world football.
After two forgettable initial touches around 15 seconds into the game — a lack of control quickly followed by a hack at thin air — Pogba showed just why United went to such lengths to sign him from Juventus.
One jinking run past three Southampton players and to the edge of the visitors’ box just before halftime had the Old Trafford faithful purring, as did a shimmy early in the second half that left his marker on his backside.
Pogba played the whole game, despite not being fully match fit, and could even have scored in injury time when he sprinted the length of the field to follow a counter-attack and shot just wide.
The expensive midfielder already looking settled; the star striker scoring with ease; Wayne Rooney seemingly revitalized. These are exciting times at United after three lean years since Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
The opening goal owed as much to Rooney’s excellent cross as Ibrahimovic’s bullet header. The Swedish striker was surrounded by defenders but rose highest to meet Rooney’s right-wing delivery and direct a header back into the corner.
Ibrahimovic then converted a penalty after left back Luke Shaw was tripped by substitute Jordy Clasie as he surged into the Southampton area. There didn’t seem any hesitation when Ibrahimovic took the ball and placed it on the spot, even though Rooney is United’s usual penalty-taker.
This was the first of a string of regular Friday night games in the Premier League, a new addition to the schedule this season.