Jose Mourinho’s wish to win trophies with Manchester United has already come true, with the team triumphing 2-1 at Wembley in the Community Shield against defending Premier League champions Leicester. It may not have been the wonderful end-to-end spectacle that the neutrals were hoping for, but picking up silverware is all that matters to the fans who have been starved of success over the last three years. Success at Wembley is the ideal start to the 2016/2017 campaign, as Manchester United can take the confidence and a winning mentality into the opening weeks which could prove crucial towards mounting a serious title challenge.
The arrival of Paul Pogba has undoubtedly created plenty of excitement around Old Trafford, but also raised expectation levels for a team that appear in good shape to win their first title since 2013. Coral certainly believe that Mourinho’s arrival, along with the signings of four top players, makes Manchester United second favourites behind our city rivals to win the title in the latest football odds, but although there will be many twists and turns along the way during the upcoming Premier League season, the Community Shield provided an insight into how the team is shaping up.
The players are behind Mourinho
Make no doubt about it; the players are hungrier for success than ever before. Some may argue that winning the Community Shield counts for little in contrast to other competitions, but you tell that to the team who celebrated on the pitch at Wembley like it meant everything to them. The players have clearly bought into Mourinho’s ambition to win everything, with Wayne Rooney amongst those who have waxed lyricals about the new manager and the impact he has made since arriving at Old Trafford. We can only hope that the harmony remains strong in the dressing room, and although some fans may be concerned that Mourinho’s abrasive persona may become a negative factor if results and performances begin to dip, early signs suggest that the players are right behind Mourinho and what he is trying to achieve at the club.
Zlatan delivers when it matters
It may not have been the most eye-catching of performances from Zlatan Ibrahimovic looking back at the game, but the big Swede certainly delivered the goods when it mattered most. Antonio Valencia deserves a lot of credit for the excellent work he put in to make space for the cross, but it still required plenty of quality from Zlatan to not only jump above Wes Morgan in the area, but also get enough power on his header to direct the ball back across goal and past Kasper Schmeichel via the inside of the post. It felt almost inevitable that Zlatan would have his say on the match at some stage, and although the big Swede failed to inspire his nation at Euro 2016, we will more than happily settle for more game-changing moments like his dramatic late winner at Wembley. His arrival is partly why Coral have installed United amongst the favourites to win the title as Zlatan has won silverware with every club he has played for, and if he delivers more golden moments like he did at Wembley, then he could fire the club towards success.
Luke Shaw back with a bang
Every fan will have been delighted to see Luke Shaw back in competitive action following his horrible leg break suffered against PSV last September at a time when he was showing signs of developing into the real deal. We can only hope that the x-year-old picks up where he left off, and if his performance against Leicester is anything to go by, Shaw looks more than ready to make the left-back spot his own. His marauding runs down the left and ability to use his speed to great effect at both end of the pitch were very apparent; Mourinho certainly likes his full-backs to offer support in attacking situations, and as Marcos Rojo, Paddy McNair and Matteo Darmian all struggled to have the same impact at left-back, Shaw’s return to fitness and form is most welcome.
Mourinho not afraid to make big changes
A sign of a good manager is when they have the confidence to make brave decisions that, although may upset certain people, are for the benefit of the team. Bringing off Juan Mata in the 92nd minute – half an hour after bringing him on as a substitute – for Mkhitaryan inevitably began suggestions that Mourinho has fallen out with the Spaniard once again after the pair clashed at Chelsea, but it effectively took valuable seconds off the clock to prevent Leicester from snatching a late equaliser. It remains to be seen whether there is any substance behind suggestions that Mata is amongst those who have been told they can leave Old Trafford, but Mourinho has already demonstrated that he is willing to do whatever it takes to bring success to Manchester United.
Pogba will add pace to the midfield
For all that was good about Manchester United at Wembley, there were a couple of areas that may need to be addressed. Eric Bailly certainly had his hands full up against Jamie Vardy and Ahmed Musa, but while the Ivorian centre-back showed a good reading of the game, along with power, assertiveness and a clever mind, his eagerness to impress often resulted in him diving into tackles that left him exposed. That side of Bailly’s game will be ironed out in due course as he adapts to life in the Premier League, but a more concerning aspect was a lack of pace through the middle of the pitch.
Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini offer little in the way of pace when they play together, nor do Zlatan and Wayne Rooney as a strike partnership. Aside from Jesse Lingard’s moment of magic to score the opening game, Manchester United were predictable and lacked something different – a spark, an element of pace, someone who can produce something out of the ordinary. Mourinho certainly has those qualities in the wide attacking positions, but Pogba’s arrival should significantly enhance the team’s ability to be more dynamic and change the tempo whenever they see fit. The French star is blessed with superb technical ability, along with athleticism and pace that should give Manchester United something they have been missing for years; most fans would agree that Carrick should partner Pogba in centre midfield to offer balance and stability, but it would also allow Pogba to express himself and become a dynamic force at both ends of the pitch.