By Drew Farmer
It didn’t take long for new Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho to collect his first piece of silverware with the Red Devils. Manchester United, last season’s FA Cup winners defeated English Premier League champions Leicester City in the FA Community Shield, officially raising the current on the new Premier League season.
For Manchester United, it was a tale of new and old. Jesse Lingard, a graduate of Manchester United’s academy and an important part of last season’s squad, opened the team’s account in the 32nd minute. Picking up a Wayne Rooney pass 40-yards from goal, Lingard dribbled through Leicester’s defence, eluding six defenders before slotting his shot past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. It was an outstanding moment of magic from the 23-year-old, and an example of what is possibly to come from him in 2016/17.
Despite Leicester equalising in the second half following Marouane Fellaini’s poor backpass, United took the spoils thanks to a new face. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, signed on a free transfer following his 38 goal output in France’s Ligue 1 last term, tallied the winner for the Red Devils. Antonio Valencia’s cross was headed in by the big Swede seven minutes from time. His play in preseason and the Community Shield has given United fans hope that the club can be more potent in attack this season. Something the team was not a under Louis van Gaal. Ibrahimovic has been a winner wherever he has been during his career, and his presence alone makes United a top-four contender.
Yet, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Mourinho’s United. Despite controlling position at 58%, something the team was bound to do against Leicester’s playing style, the Red Devils looked vulnerable in defence at times. Shinji Okazaki was an early threat for Leicester, missing just wide with a shot minutes into the match, before striking the woodwork from a header in the 19th minute.
United’s defence will take time to sort out for Mourinho. The Portuguese’s back four included new signing Eric Bailly alongside Daley Blind, who has been rumoured to be leaving this summer. Luke Shaw also made his much awaited return after breaking his leg last season. His fitness isn’t where it needs to be yet, and he was removed after 69 minutes. Valencia is a converted right-back, but has adapted to the position over the last few years. Although last season he only featured 14 times for the club.
Mourinho does have Paul Pogba on his way to Old Trafford, and a medical is expected this week. The French international will cost United €105 million after an already protracted transfer saga. Pogba’s arrival may upset the club’s current chemistry, and at such a high price, the club is setting him up for harsh criticisms anytime his form dips.
United has spent money this summer, like most summers, and what the club has bought is destined to reap rewards. The club should lift a trophy this term. Which trophy of the four the team will compete for is anyone’s guess at the moment. The Red Devils’ first Premier League opponent, Bournemouth, will test the club. However, with a favourable opening three fixtures, United should go into the Manchester derby on September 10th in good shape.
Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @DrewMFarmer. Check out his latest book, Soccer Travels, in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.com.