It wasn’t pretty, but Manchester United got the job done against Swansea City at Old Trafford, beating the relegation-threatened Swans 2-0 courtesy of first-half goals from Romeu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez on Saturday night.
Their win added extra spice to next week’s Manchester Derby, effectively putting the Sky Blues’ champagne on ice and before the interval at least, the Red Devils looked like a team that had got their mojo back.
Lukaku’s deflected effort nestled in the back of the net early on before Alexis Sanchez cooly beat Lukasz Fabianski to calm the home crowd’s nerves.
Carlos Carvahal rung in the changes at half-time and while United did ease off in the second-half, David de Gea almost singlehandedly kept them the visitors at bay to ensure the Red Devils reclaimed second spot in the Premier League table.
Here are the five main talking points from an intriguing clash at Old Trafford:
Lukaku’s goal No.100 will silence critics…for now
It didn’t take him long, did it?
Barely five minutes had passed before Lukaku registered his 25th goal in a United jersey, but perhaps more significantly, it was also his 100th strike in the Premier League.
Considering he’s still only 24, it’s not inconceivable to predict he may just end up in the all-time top 10 (currently he’s 27th, if you were wondering) by the time his career comes to a close, provided he remains in the English top-flight of course.
David de Gea (more on him below) should once again be crowned the club’s Player of the Year, Nemanja Matic has been ultra-consistent throughout, but how good has Lukaku been of late?
The burly Belgian has his detractors and while his big-game record isn’t the best, he’s still young and can only improve.
Granted, the 6’4 former Chelsea man isn’t the most clinical, but he’s already shown signs of real progress over the past couple of months and his fine form bodes well for United.
Tammy Abraham makes United uncomfortable in the second-half
Carlos Carvahal made a bold move by making a double substitution at half-time, bringing on the likes of Tammy Abraham and Tom Caroll and it very nearly proved to be a masterstroke.
Abraham, on loan from Chelsea, has been seriously impressive each time he’s played for the Swans and his physical presence proved to be handful for the likes of Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof.
The lanky forward, however, showed his footwork isn’t half-bad either as he turned his marker inside out to seemingly score, only for United’s custodian to reinforce his credentials as the world’s premier shot-stopper with a jaw-dropping save.
It’s not a stretch to say that had it been any other keeper in the Premier League, Swansea would have pulled one back and then we would have had a real game on our hands.
And while things didn’t quite pan out in the favour of the Swans, they can take heart from the fact that Abraham looks like the real deal and they should definitely considering signing him on a permanent deal in the summer.
But David de Gea saves United’s bacon…again!!
Just like Mohamed Salah keeps scoring, David de Gea keeps pulling out top-drawer saves out of his hat.
His first save on Abraham, from nearly point-blank range, beggared belief.
How many times have we seen the Spaniard, who if not for a faulty fax machine could well have been a Real Madrid player, bail United out of trouble?
The second save from Abraham wasn’t half bad either, but alarm bells should have been ringing already at the Theatre of Dreams.
Why were a team like Swansea, 2-0 down, allowed to feel they had a way back in the tie?
United were far from dominant in the second-half as they took their foot of the gas and had it not been for the brilliance of their No.1, they could have been in for a very nervy final 10 minutes.
Next week’s opponents, without any disrespect meant to Swansea, are several levels higher and United will have to bring their A-game to the pitch if they are to stand any chance of emerging victorious.
United carry serious momentum into Manchester Derby
As things stand, United have won their last four games on the trot and while they have been chasing City all season long, they can perhaps, perhaps, secure bragging rights in next week’s derby.
United know nothing less than a win will do and while that’s easier said than done considering the imperious form Pep Guardiola’s men have been in, the Red Devils will be backing themselves to cause an upset.
Twice they have come across Jurgen Klopp’s free-scoring Liverpool and twice they have prevented them from scoring (0-0 in the first game and 2-1 to United in the second with Eric Bailly scoring an own goal), so why can’t they do the same to the Sky Blues?
City will have a energy-sapping continental fixture against Liverpool in mid-week, while United can afford to recharge their batteries and solely prepare for the derby.
They have no real injury concerns to speak of and while certain elements of their squad are yet to hit their stride (Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez, we’re looking at you!), the likes of De Gea, Matic, Lukaku, Lingard and going from strength to strength.
Regardless of the outcome of next week’s derby, the backdrop is intense for United will be charged up to prevent their crosstown rivals from celebrating the league title, at the derby at least.
Loss threatens to drag Swansea City back into relegation quagmire
While Carlos Carvahal’s men don’t look like they will get relegated, they remain just three points above the drop zone.
Their final fixtures for the season are: West Brom (A), Everton (H), Manchester City (A), Chelsea (A), Bournemouth (A), Stoke (H) and Southampton (H).
They’ve shown they can mix it up with the big boys of the Premier League but they need to get back on track without much delay.
The Welsh outfit have won just once in their last four games and next week’s tie against bottom-ranked West Brom is a must-win for them.
With the Baggies in miserable form, no excuses will be entertained for the Swans are still nine short of the magical 40-point mark.
Can they turn around their ‘mini-slump’?
It looks like they can but simply drawing against sides that are fighting for survival will not do if they wish to be safe before the final few weeks of the season.