IT had all been very cosy. As the players made their way out for their pre-match warmups, Jose Mourinho took a minute to soak it all in.
For a man who has experienced the heat of the Nou Camp, Anfield, and the Stadio San Paolo this will have felt like a breeze in the South Wales sunshine as Rocky’s ‘Gonna Fly Now’ screeched out of the PA system.
All the while, there was not an audible boo when United’s line-up, ●● unchanged for the first time since December, was read out.
But changed. that quickly
A narrow United barely had a minute to catch their breaths as Swansea pressed and harried – roared on by a vociferous support. Marcus Rashford, the villain of the reverse fixture last season, will rarely have experienced an atmosphere like ●● this and Paul Pogba, for all his experience, was feeling the heat.
That hackneyed ‘What a waste of money!’ chant made a reappearance as Pogba toiled in the firsthalf with some misguided flicks and the Frenchman was guilty of a couple of late tackles.
But, when it mattered most, the 24-year-old made the difference in a tight game – in an unprecedented manner.
Not only did Pogba’s cross win United that crucial corner before halftime, it was his glancing header which clipped the bar and allowed Eric Bailly to fire home.
It was a deserved first- ever goal in red for Bailly, who was a colossus throughout, but he was quick to rush to Pogba in the celebrations.
Finally, Mourinho had what he wanted: a setpiece goal and a leftfield goalscorer to bail his side out before a late secondhalf goal salvo from Lukaku, Pogba and Martial.
For a man who looked remarkably susceptible under the high ball last season, it marked quite a turnaround for Pogba.
This was the moment where the midfielder puffed his chest out and stood up to his critics – 21,000 of whom were in the stadium – with Mour- inho trusting him by leaving him on. Again. It was yet another test of his future captain credentials and while some will argue he was lucky to still be on the field, after a late tackle in the first half, he did not shy away.
There was no lashing out, no hands being thrown up in the air and he instead added a goal and another assist to his tally.
Given how both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney have departed, two leaders who helped make the difference in this fixture last season, this was a real test of a young United side.
And they stood up to it.
Paul Pogba celebrates with Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku scores United’s second goal at Swansea