Captain Paul Pogba leads, Diogo Dalot impresses for Manchester United
BERN, Switzerland -- Three points on Manchester United's 3-0 win vs. Young Boys in Group H of the UEFA Champions League.
1. Manchester United survive tricky test
The records will show that Manchester United won a game they were expected to win in the Stade de Suisse, but manager Jose Mourinho has every right to feel more satisfaction.
His team overcame a hard, artificial turf pitch and 32,000 Young Boys fans determined to create a din on their first Champions League night since the competition was rebranded in 1992. United survived an uncomfortable first 30 minutes but by the end of the first half were 2-0 up, and a game that looked like an accident waiting to happen was under control.
There will be sterner tests in Group H -- even if Juventus do turn up at Old Trafford next month without Cristiano Ronaldo -- but Mourinho's men started with a win in difficult circumstances. There was no need for pre-prepared excuses in the postmatch news conference, just a sense of contentment that has been missing so far this season.
However, for periods in the first half, it looked like Young Boys were ready to cause a shock on their group stage debut. Inside the first 20 minutes, Guillaume Hoarau's header flashed past the far post, and David De Gea tipped over from Mohamed Ali Camera's 20-yard drive.
Enter Paul Pogba. The French midfielder started the game having only ever scored two Champions League goals, but by half-time, he had doubled his tally. The first was a beauty after 35 minutes, when he danced around two challenges before firing a left-footed shot into the roof of the net.
Nine minutes later, Pogba had two. Luke Shaw's cross hit Kevin Mbabu's hand in the penalty area, and Pogba scored his third spot kick of the season. The run-up -- trotting forward like a show pony -- looked comical, but the finish, high into the top right-hand corner, was anything but.
In the second half, he gave someone else a turn, carrying the ball forward to set up Anthony Martial to score a third after 66 minutes. Game over and slip-up avoided.
2. Pogba leads from the front
The last time United played in the Champions League, Pogba could not get in the team: Last season's round-of-16 second leg saw Mourinho go with Scott McTominay instead. That was quite a statement, but so was Pogba's performance here.
Wearing the captain's armband in the absence of Antonio Valencia, his first goal came at a time when Young Boys looked most likely to take the lead, with the 25-year-old conjuring a moment of skill and technique to make sure his team was first to strike. Offered the chance to double the advantage from the penalty spot just before half-time, he made no mistake.
It was the type of display -- desperate to be on the ball and spraying passes left and right -- that a £89 million footballer should be able to produce. Everything is there except, maybe, consistency.
It is easy to recognise a good performance when it is topped off with a couple of goals, but in fairness to Pogba, he was also good against Watford on Saturday. The trick is to repeat the display until it is average games that become the rarity.
There is still the question of whether Pogba wants to be at United. He is fully aware of the chatter surrounding a potential move to Barcelona next summer and has chosen to keep the story running. However, he cannot be accused of downing tools, and with their star man in this kind of form, United are a better team.
3. Dalot's dynamic debut
Valencia was given the night off against Young Boys, and his replacement, Diogo Dalot, played like he was keen for the Ecuadorian right-back to watch a few more games on TV.
After two run-outs with the Under-23s, United's new £19 million full-back was thrown in the deep end on a difficult pitch in front of a hostile crowd on a big European night. The biggest compliment you could pay Dalot was that he did not look like a teenager making his senior debut for one of the biggest clubs in the world.
The 19-year-old looked particularly good going forward; one burst down in the first half saw him shrug off a challenge that almost sent a Young Boys defender hurtling over the advertising boards. At more than 6 feet tall and built like a boxer, Mourinho does not have to wait for Dalot to fill out.
It would have been easier for the United manager to pick his fellow Portuguese for the first time against Derby County in the Carabao Cup next week -- Ashley Young or Matteo Darmian could have played against Young Boys -- but Mourinho decided against the safe option.
He has been rewarded with a tough decision about whether to keep Valencia on the couch when Wolves visit Old Trafford on Saturday.