Manchester United

Young Boys 0-3 Man Utd: 5 things we learned

 • by Ryan Baldi
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Manchester United got their 2018/19 Champions League campaign off to the perfect start with a professional, routine victory over Swiss champions Young Boys, winning 3-0 on their trip to Bern.

Comfortable throughout, José Mourinho’s men made their qualitative advantage pay dividends, with man of the match Paul Pogba twice on the scoresheet in the first half, before then providing an assist for compatriot Anthony Martial.

With tougher tests to come – United’s group is completed by Juventus and Valencia – Mourinho won’t be getting carried away with his side’s resounding victory.

But this was not the performance of a team in crisis, nor were there any indications of the 11 players selected by Mourinho being unwilling to give their all for the manager; if any United players have an eye on a move elsewhere, you wouldn’t know it based on Wednesday night’s evident.

Here are the five things we learned from a comfortable evening’s work for United.

A happy Pogba = a healthy United

Early on, it was clear, here, that Pogba was in the mood. And when Pogba is in the mood, there are few players in world football who can match the Frenchman for inventiveness and effortless, jaw-dropping technique.

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And all of his superlative technique was on show when he fired United ahead in the 35th minute. Following his own pass into Fred, Pogba collected the ball from the Brazilian 20 yards out, shifted neatly on to his weaker left foot – the same left foot with which he scored from similar range in the World Cup final – and rifled the ball into the top corner.

A second came as the first period drew to a close, confidently dispatching a penalty – unfairly awarded for a handball that wasn’t – after his trademark, tippy-toed run-up.

Pogba, the captain for the night, was withdrawn with 15 minutes to play, having touched the ball more often then any player on the pitch. There was time before his exit, though, for one more moment of quality, slipping Martial in to build what always looked an unassailable lead.

Pogba has questioned his own attitude and application already this season, while others have been more than happy to do it for him. The fact of the matter, though, is when Pogba is in this kind of form, United are an entirely different proposition. And therein lies Mourinho’s biggest challenge.

Martial motivated

Starting for just the second time this season, without a goal since January and an increasingly popular target for criticism from United fans, it’s fair to say Martial needed a performance here.

And the talented 22-year-old delivered. Although this can’t be classed as the kind of virtuoso display the young attacker produced regularly in his first season at the club, Martial’s pace and desire to test the Young Boys defence in behind was a constant threat.

The goal he has needed so desperately came in the 66th minute, created by Pogba and aided by a deflection.

But aside from the goal, there was another aspect of Martial’s performance present here that has too often been lacking: endeavour. The ice-cool Frenchman is perhaps the victim of his natural, über-laidback demeanour, leading critics to accuse him of not caring enough.

That is unlikely to be the case. And against Young Boys, Martial revelled in showcasing the skills that convinced United to commit up to £58million for his signature as an unproven 19-year-old.

Particularly in the second half, the old, confident Martial was back, collecting the ball deep and running at petrified defenders, linking exquisitely with colleagues and appearing determined to impress.

Steady Freddy

It’s been a difficult start to life at United for Fred. The Brazilian midfielder was the Red Devils’ marquee signing of the summer, arriving from Shakhtar Donetsk for £52million, but he is yet to adjust to the pace of the English game, inconsistent and occasionally sloppy.

Fred alerted scouts around Europe with his performance in the Champions League last season, however, and he looked much more comfortable back in the Continent’s premier club competition here.

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There was still the occasional errant pass, but there was also plenty of defensive cover, diligent pressing and neat combination play.

Shaw showing no ill effects of head injury

Luke Shaw missed United’s trip to Watford last weekend, having sustained a head injury with England during the recent international break.

After starting the new season in magnificent form, finally nailing down the left-back spot after two years of turmoil, there was a worry Shaw would lose the rhythm he has worked so hard to regain.

There needn’t have been any such concern, though. The 23-year-old full-back picked right up where he left off, defending well in one-v-one situations and always looking to support the attack.

United can still be got at

Although United cruised to as easy a three points as is possible in a Champions League away tie, it would be inaccurate to suggest they were not tested defensively a handful of times.

Indeed, in terms of total shots, the home side aimed for goal 17 times to United’s 16, hitting the target five times and striking the woodwork late on.

Young Boys had neither the individual nor the collective quality to punish United, but Valencia and Juventus certainly do.

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