Monday 26 September 2016

Swedish striker's late winner on debut sees marquee signing hand Portuguese boss perfect start at new club

Jason Burt

Published 08/08/2016 | 02:30

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri. Photo: Reuters / Eddie Keogh
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri. Photo: Reuters / Eddie Keogh
Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores their second goal. Photo: Reuters / Eddie Keogh
Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United. Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

When you talk the talk, it really does help when you can walk the walk.

Manchester United 2 Leicester 1

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Manchester United will not be short of stories, chatter, talking points, controversy, thrills, spills and - unquestionably - bellyaches this season. Not with Jose Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The egos have landed; one game in and one trophy up.

Mourinho stood Christ-like, arms outstretched in motionless celebration in the technical area, as he turned towards the stands here at the final whistle to celebrate his first trophy - and the 23rd of his stellar career - as United manager.

The FA Cup winners overcame the Premier League champions, Leicester City, to collect the Community Shield and his message was clear: Jose is back and you had better believe it.

Especially Juan Mata, who suffered the humiliation of being a second-half substitute who was subbed in added time as United held on to win.

United coach Silvino Louro shepherded him away from the manager but Mata - marginalised and sold by Mourinho when the pair were at Chelsea - appeared furious.

Onslaught

Even if Mourinho's subsequent explanation - that he had to take off his smallest player to withstand Leicester's aerial onslaught - was credible this could be one that runs.

As will Ibrahimovic. The 34-year-old striker was starved of opportunities until his power, precision and desire took the one that mattered as he rose above Leicester captain Wes Morgan, who had an afternoon to forget, to direct a header from Antonio Valencia's centre which bounced back off across goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The ball kissed the post before obligingly trickling over the line. Mourinho is the trophy-hunter but Ibrahimovic's collection is even greater. This win took his tally to 31.

It was only the Community Shield but it sets down a marker. Mourinho will believe he is off and running - this is no mere bauble to him - and so too will Ibrahimovic. Zlatan time is upon us.

It emerged pre-match that Paul Pogba will undergo his medical at United's Carrington training ground today but even a world-record €105m fee will still leave the France midfielder no higher than No 3 in the pecking order.

United need him, though. Although Leicester lost, they looked like the worthy champions of last term.

Determined, organised and dazzling on the counter-attack they have added even more pace to an already rapid forward line with Ahmed Musa, a half-time substitute, impressive along with another replacement, Demarai Gray, and Jamie Vardy predatorily scoring once again.

They also struck the crossbar with a flashing first-half header by Shinji Okazaki, and looked in decent nick.

"I enjoyed watching the same team as last season," Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri said.

And he was right. United? A work-in-progress, for sure. Mourinho has said as much and also spoke about having to reprogramme the players after the turgid post-Ferguson years.

He dedicated this victory to Louis van Gaal but will have a private smile at that. This was a most un-Van Gaal like approach in terms of intent even if United have a lot of questions still to answer.

Ibrahimovic was Ibrahimovic, which was a relief. At the back Eric Bailly looked impressive but raw and in need of an experienced, commanding centre-half partner. And that is not Daley Blind. Wayne Rooney had better sharpen up too. He lost possession several times and Mourinho's body language said it all. He will not let the United captain continue to do that.

Mourinho has added a new spine and United are bigger and more physically imposing but lack pace and athleticism, which are usually two of his key demands.

He knows it. "We are not a super team but a team with a super desire to work," Mourinho said. Or ordered.

He has spoken, also, about having to dominate possession with this squad - they cannot win on the counter - and that makes sense but they will need to move the ball quicker and more aggressively, which will be Pogba's duty.

It will be fascinating, also, to see how Leicester and Ranieri carry on. There is an N'Golo Kanté-size hole in the heart of the team which they hope will be filled by new signing Nampalys Mendy - Ranieri's original target before Kanté was signed.

But they still have Vardy. They also have Riyad Mahrez and it appeared business as usual. They allowed United the ball and were comfortable in that even when they fell behind to an outstanding individual goal by Jesse Lingard, who later limped off injured in front of the watching Sam Allardyce.

The England manager will have liked what he saw from the 23-year-old, who also scored a stunner on his previous Wembley appearance to win the FA Cup in May.

Lunged

This time, Lingard whisked the ball away as Andy King dived in before driving goalwards, evading Robert Huth, then nutmegging Morgan as he lunged at him.

Suddenly, he was through on goal and as Schmeichel made that trademark star-shape, his sidefoot shot brushed the goalkeeper's boot before dropping into the net.

Leicester were not fazed. Yes, United had scored but they were dominating only in terms of possession.

Okazaki curled a deflected shot narrowly wide to earn the corner from which he struck the goal-frame and then, into the second-half, Vardy pounced on Marouane Fellaini's error as the midfielder dropped a back-pass woefully short.

Vardy rounded David De Gea before slotting into the unguarded net.

Chances came and went before Ibrahimovic scored, provoking that late aerial bombardment from Leicester, who even threw Schmeichel forward, which spooked Mourinho. "Nightmare," he later stated. But it was a dream start.

© Daily Telegraph, London.

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