Manchester United opened the 2018-19 season with a win. It was not exactly like last season, when the Devils started campaign with a 4-0 beating of Leicester City. This time, it was 2-1 victory against the same rival. The goals through Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw were enough to seal the three points.
There was a lot of talk about Jose Mourinho and his antics in the press conferences, being negative since the starting day of the pre-season. However, the match against Leicester showed some positive things in a win that could have and probably should have been more convincing, not just result-wise, but performance-wise too.
Here are the things Portuguese manager got right on Friday night.
During pre-season, Mourinho quite often used a 3-5-2 formation. That was an implication that United could play more often is such system, with three centre-backs to offer more defensive solidity. However, with no centre-backs arriving in the summer and without much time on the training pitch, it was good to keep that away from the opening match.
Instead, Mourinho opted for a 4-3-3 which was especially useful given Manchester United could not rely on Nemanja Matic. The Serbian is still recovering from an injury he got during World Cup and thus different solutions were needed in his position. A 4-2-3-1 would have probably felt too rigid, especially for Paul Pogba. Without a real number 10 on the pitch, United players had the opportunity to roam more towards central positions, Pogba and Sanchez leading in such roles.
Andreas Pereira As A Number 6
We have seen Andreas Pereira being deployed as the number 6 during pre-season and now we have seen it again. It was somewhat unexpected this summer when Mourinho chose to put a player many thought of as a winger and make him play as the deepest midfielder. And yet, that also seemed as the logical move ever since. Pereira is a tenacious midfielder who is very good on the ball. He feels comfortable in tight areas when he has to either react fast or dribble. And also, his passing range is good enough to become United’s metronome in front of the backline.
It could be said that Man United have not signed such player since 2006. Given that Michael Carrick was that man and he is now part of the backroom staff, he could also be useful to Pereira getting used to a new position. The performance against Leicester felt complete and it will be interesting to see how things will unfold for the Brazilian.
The Centre-Back Pairing
This was not really a surprise, but it was a good move. The two centre-backs who joined United during Mourinho’s tenure started the match and did well. Right after the match on Friday night, we wrote about just how good Eric Bailly looked, but Victor Lindelöf was not really troubled either.
The decision was also important because United will need a reliable pairing across the whole season. Lindelöf could start improving after a rough first season, while Bailly is expected to lead the line anyway. If these two continue partnering well, that could be an important boost for Manchester United this year.