Saturday 24 March 2018

Jose happy as United kick off with a victory

Boost for Mourinho as left-back Shaw begins his comeback from injury in friendly against Wigan

Manchester United's Juan Mata with manager Jose Mourinho after the friendly victory over Wigan. Photo: Martin Rickett
Manchester United's Juan Mata with manager Jose Mourinho after the friendly victory over Wigan. Photo: Martin Rickett

Paul Wilson

Luke Shaw's comeback is under way after coming through 45 minutes of the 2-0 Manchester United victory over Wigan that marked Jose Mourinho's first game in charge, with the new manager confessing he was surprised to see the England left-back at the training ground following his double leg fracture at the start of last season.

"When I found him at the training ground it was a surprise for me because I thought he couldn't be ready to start work without limitation," Mourinho said. "He did fantastic over the summer, he sacrificed his holiday to get into condition. He was mad to play the second half as well, he wanted to play more than 45 minutes, but I thought 45 minutes was safe enough for his first game back. Let's go step by step."

After the excesses of Euro 2016 it is almost painful to write this sentence, but history should record that when Mourinho first took his seat on a Manchester United touchline, the moment the assembled photographers had been waiting for occurred during a rendition of Will Grigg's On Fire.

In fairness, Grigg was actually playing in this game, unlike any of Northern Ireland's matches in France. And this is where the whole thing started, with Wigan supporters hymning their striker's goalscoring prowess en route to promotion last season.

This is where a whole new chapter started for Manchester United, too. Their supporters in the East Stand began chanting Mourinho's name a mere two minutes into this friendly, prompting the Portuguese to respond with a polite wave.

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It was very much a friendly, though, with as little urgency on the pitch as you would expect in mid-July, and when the United fans took up the same chant again 25 uneventful minutes into the game the manager's acknowledgement was just a little more sheepish.

Five minutes later the travelling support was demanding a wave so Mourinho did his best to ignore them. "It's nice to feel welcome but I would prefer them to go with the team," Mourinho said afterwards. "They are the ones on the pitch. The players are the ones who need the support. If I could appeal to the fans I would ask them to get behind Manchester United."

The United manager stayed impassively on his feet the whole time, despite occasional invitations to sit down from his new public, exchanging the odd pleasantry with Gary Caldwell and at one point in the first half reaching across the touchline to shake hands with Stephen Warnock.

This was the gentlest of introductions for Mourinho and some of his players. The real pre-season business starts on tour in China this week, when United will have some of their Euro 2016 performers back and they will play Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City.

The main point of this fixture was for Mourinho to have a good look at some of his new charges for the first time, including Shaw, who confessed he had been impatient to get the occasion over with. "Every pre-season is important but this time I can't wait to get going," he said. "I'm just looking forward to carrying on doing what I started to do last year."

United's starting lineup featured debutants in Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the former one of only four players who came out again for the second half. The Armenian missed the best opportunity of the first half, spooning over a shot at the far post after Jesse Lingard had found him unmarked, and was possibly miffed to see a much-changed United take the lead just four minutes into the second when a Jussi Jaaskelainen mistake led to a tap-in for Will Keane.

Bailly looked alert and mobile and pulled off a saving tackle on Emyr Huws at one point, though the Wigan front line did not exactly give the United defence the most rigorous of examinations.

Of the players already at United hoping to make an early impression on their new manager, Ander Herrera was his usual tidy self, Memphis Depay's passing has not improved over summer, Lingard looked lively and Phil Jones has treated himself to a new blond rinse, possibly the better to stand out in a crowd.

Juan Mata played a part in the first goal, though one fears Mourinho's mind is already made up about him, while Andreas Pereira added a second with a sharp finish following a half-cleared free-kick. When Antonio Valencia came on for the second half he was deployed at right-back, with Ashley Young ahead of him on the wing and the lesser-spotted Adnan Januzaj making an appearance at wide left.

Behind Januzaj, the ever adaptable Daley Blind moved across to left-back from centre-half to accommodate Jones. Nick Powell was at United last season too, though now he is back at Wigan on a permanent basis. Some of his challenges when he came on stretched the definition of friendly, but at the close all agreed it had been a good workout.

"Obviously the result is not the most important thing, but I was pleased after 10 days of work to see things starting to happen," Mourinho said.

"They were trying to play my football. I could see the players trying to go in the direction I want them to go, so I'm happy. Thank you very much to the Wigan manager and players for the unbelievable training session."


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