Manchester United ease past West Brom thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic double

Zlatan Ibrahimovic opened the scoring after five minutes as Manchester United won 2-0 at West Brom but Wayne Rooneys wait to equal Sir Bobby Charltons scoring record continues

As Wayne Rooneys wait for the goal that will equal Sir Bobby Charltons record goes on, Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to carry the torch for a Manchester United side who are running into form at just the right time. With another two goals, the Swede took his tally for the season to 16 and 10 in his last nine games to complete a highly satisfactory week for Jos Mourinho and his players.

United have won three times in the space of seven days their first such run in the Premier League since August and there are clear signs that the juggernaut is starting to pick up a little speed. Ibrahimovic is certainly in the groove, playing like a man at the peak of his powers rather than a 35-year-old in the twilight of his career.

His early header set United on their way before anyone had a chance to break sweat and the match was in effect over as a contest when Ibrahimovic added a second early in the second half. West Bromwich Albions self-belief was broken and United were able to cruise towards a routine victory that lifts them to within three points of fourth-placed Manchester City, albeit having played a game more.

With home fixtures to come against Sunderland and Middlesbrough, the league table could make for even better reading for United by the time the year comes to a close. They are not playing vintage attacking football by any stretch, yet United are finding a way to win matches and producing flashes of brilliance, with the lovely opening goal against Albion a case in point.

By the end it felt like Christmas had come early for the travelling supporters as Rooney, Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera led a group of United players over towards them to throw their shirts into the crowd. I told them to do that, Mourinho said. Its Christmas time. A shirt for a fan, coming direct from the game with sweat, means a lot. For the players, its just one more shirt. But I think for the fans it means a lot.

With Albion flying high in seventh place and awkward opponents for any team on paper, Mourinho was entitled to be delighted with the outcome and the Portuguese quickly made it clear that he had no intention of overshadowing the result by saying anything controversial in relation to either of the two majorflashpoints.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores his second goal of the match. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

The first incident featured Ibrahimovic, who poleaxed Craig Dawson with a challenge that was late and potentially dangerous as the United striker knocked the Albion full-back to the floor. Ibrahimovic never had any chance of getting the ball and it felt like one of those fouls that merits more than a booking but perhaps not quite a red card. Anthony Taylor, the referee, arrived at that conclusion and decided to show only a yellow card.

Asked about that moment, Mourinho turned the conversation to the other controversial incident, when Salomn Rondn slapped Marcos Rojo in the face after the two squared up to each other in the second half. Rondn seemed to be reacting to something that Rojo said, yet the Venezuelan was playing with fire by raising his hand, even if the contact was barely hard enough to burst a paper bag. Mourinho, in fairness, felt the referee did the right thing by allowing Rondn to stay on the pitch.

Tony Pulis did not seem quite so impressed with the way that Taylor handled the game. Asked about Ibrahimovics actions, Pulis said: Ask the 28,000 supporters what they thought. The Albion manager also described Ibrahimovics challenge as worse than the [Rondn] one.

Either way, there can be no doubting Ibrahimovics ability and his influence over this United team. Im so pleased for him, Mourinho said. He is the kind of player who doesnt need to prove anything to anyone. But when he decided to come to England for the last period of his career to the most difficult championship in the world I think he proved he is a superman in his mentality. What he is doing at 35 is a dream for every striker of 25 in the Premier League.

It was certainly a wonderful goal that Ibrahimovic finished off to put United ahead in the fifth minute. Pogba and Antonio Valencia were involved in the buildup, yet ultimately it was all about the timing of Jesse Lingards run and the outstanding technique that the England international showed to deliver an inch-perfect cross, on the half-volley, for Ibrahimovic to nod beyond Ben Foster.

Chances then came and went at both ends. Rooney, set up by Lingard, saw his 18-yard shot superbly tipped on to the crossbar by Foster. At the other end of the pitch, Rondn should have done better when he got in between Phil Jones and Rojo only to head Matty Phillipss cross well wide.

Mourinho was frustrated that Lingard wasted an opportunity to double Uniteds lead on the stroke of half-time, when the winger snatched at a ball that dropped invitingly for him following Matteo Darmians miskick, yet the visitors took little time to score a second after the restart.

Picking up possession from Rooney, Ibrahimovic stepped inside Gareth McAuley far too easily and struck a low right-foot shot that took a deflection off Craig Dawson before nestling in the far corner. Albion, in truth, never looked like getting back in the game. That second goal took the wind out of us, Pulis admitted.

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