Manchester United beat Leicester City 2-1 to clinch the FA Community Shield. Jesse Lingard and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Mourinho’s side, while Jamie Vardy scored for Leicester City.
An average performance by this United side, which is still transitioning away from Louis Van Gaal’s style of play, but they did exhibit signs of improvement in their 2-1 victory over Leicester City.
1. Eric Bailly Will Blossom Under Jose Mourinho
Signed to the tune of $39 million from Villarreal, the 22 year old was seen as one for the future, a raw talent who would need time to develop. But, on evidence of this performance, the Ivory Coast International will be crucial for United’s imminent title challenge.
Bailly was aggressive and quick to intercept passes, and dominated when Leicester ran forward. He also had the pace to sprint with both Jamie Vardy and Ahmed Musa, and was not at fault for the former’s goal. If anything, Bailly will have to curb his aggression for the sake of discipline; the youngster was guilty of some poor decision making, the likes of which have led to goals like this in the past.
Ultimately, the former Villarreal man looks set to follow in the footsteps of Raphael Varane, Kurt Zouma and, most notably, John Terry, all of whom were (or still are) young defensive stalwarts at Mourinho’s previous clubs.
Hailing from the tactically diverse La Liga, his place in the side is all but assured.The question now is whether Chris Smalling will partner him at the heart of defense.
2. United Struggle To Find Attacking Rhythm
Still recovering from Louis Van Gaal’s mechanical football, Manchester United struggled to find cohesion in the attacking third. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney struggled to hold up the ball and start attacks, often alternating or combining by dropping deep. The midfield was uninspiring, with Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini lacking the dynamism to feed a decent attacking unit.
Wayne Rooney in particular struggled with his first touch, and lacked the pace to run in behind, which begs the question: does he deserve to play in Mourinho’s strongest XI? Going by this game, the answer is probably not, although he would likely thrive in a more cohesive attacking setup- something which Mourinho is likely working towards on the training ground.
Indeed, United’s lack of fluidity up front is best illustrated by the fact that both of their goals were superb solo efforts, rather than well-worked attacking moves.
Fans can still take solace in the fact that United’s strongest XI will have more firepower than the side that was on show at Wembley. Henrikh Mkhitaryan will definitely start, and Morgan Schneiderlein should have a larger role in Mourinho’s plans. Paul Pogba’s imminent signing will also transform the midfield.
United also looked slightly undercooked from a physical standpoint, and that should also change as Mourinho gets one more week of uninterrupted training. Altogether, the next United side we see will be a stronger outfit.
3. Wide Players Show Promise
While Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney struggled to stamp their authority on the game, United’s array of energetic wide players formed the basis of their attacking play. United still lacked any sort of identity, as they have during this transitional period, but most of their successful forays forward came in wide areas.
Full backs Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia continued showcasing their impressive overlapping runs, with the latter providing the assist for the winning goal. The duo are clearly key to Mourinho’s attacking plan, for the moment at least.
Young wingers Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, and to a lesser extent, Anthony Martial were all impressive for different reasons.
Rashford showcased why he could be a brilliant supersub this season, taking on defenders with supreme confidence. Jesse Lingard looked to play himself into Mourinho’s plans, and impressed throughout. That he will help his friend Paul Pogba fit into the club helps his cause.
Martial had the worst game of the trio, but unlike Memphis Depay, he is still in Mourinho’s plans. The French winger also exhibited a fantastic work rate, something Mourinho seeks in nearly all his players.
In the end, the performance was not the best, but United did enough to get a morale-boosting victory over defending champions Leicester City. Promising signs of progress hint that Mourinho’s charges should be prepared for a title challenge when the Premier League begins next week.