Manchester United ended their four-match winless run with a victory at Everton on New Year’s Day. Here are five things we learned from the win.
Pogba excels with more freedom
After United laboured to a 0-0 draw with Southampton, Paul Scholes questioned the merit of playing the Frenchman deep in a midfield two and urged José Mourinho to free him up.
Mourinho did just that here, anchoring the midfield with Nemanja Matić and Ander Herrera and allowing Pogba to drift in from the left, playing in a number 10 position and influencing the game.
There were still moments of slackness, giving the ball away needlessly, most notably when Everton launched a revival at 1-0 down but overall, Pogba looked far better for the increased freedom.
A three-man midfield with Pogba as the spearhead looks like the way forward.
It is key to find space for Jesse Lingard
Lingard is in the form of his life and Mourinho is understandably keen to find a role for him in his starting eleven.
The key is giving him space to operate. He has flourished centrally in counter attacking performances against Arsenal and Watford but here the game was much more compact which meant he had to stay wider. There were times when he drifted inside and was easily nullified but when he stuck to the left wing birth and linked up smartly with Pogba, he showed his quality again.
His role might change depending on the nature of the opposition but United have to get him in positions where he gets the space to run at defences.
Victor Lindelöf is rapidly improving
When Lindelöf first featured for United after arriving from Benfica, it was hard to remember a player who had made so many errors in a United shirt. He looked like he could have been a dud but qualifying for the World Cup with Sweden reinvigorated him and he has steadily improved since then.
Here, he was out of position at right back but impressed throughout with assured distribution, constantly offering support and nullified livewire Yannick Bolasie to the extent that he was substituted on the hour.
When Antonio Valencia returns at right back, Lindelöf has earned an opportunity at centre half.
A José team talk makes an impact
On these pages before, I have been critical of José Mourinho for his ineffective half team team talks which have seen United tail off in big matches, most notably against Chelsea and Liverpool this season.
However, after a turgid first half here, it was clear that Mourinho inspired his tired team. They stepped up a level, exploiting Everton down the left hand side through Pogba, Lingard and Luke Shaw and putting Everton to the sword.
Mourinho has been tetchy and despondent in recent weeks and that looks as if it has transferred to the players on the pitch but he had a positive impact here.
Mourinho sets his team up sensibly
Mourinho has been largely criticised for his negative tactics in big games but he has actually played with two, three and four strikers on the pitch in other matches at times. This appears to be his rudimentary idea of attacking football, in the club’s special traditions but all it serves to do is expose United’s midfield and encourage direct football.
Here, only one striker - Anthony Martial - took to the field with United fielding a genuine midfield five and relying more on movement outside the box. United looked better for it - certainly better than with the awkward Lukaku / Ibrahimović compromise that lasted just 45 minutes but saw the Red Devils go 2-0 down against Burnley.
That is something Mourinho should consider going forward.