You’d have to go back a long time to find a Manchester United season that has started with greater anticipation than the current campaign. United are off to winning a start following a 3-1 victory over Bournemouth in Jose Mourinho’s first Premier League fixture as manager.
The away side broke the deadlock just before halftime, when Juan Mata latched on to a poor backpass from Simon Francis and converted on the second attempt past Artur Boruc. United upped the tempo in the second half and Wayne Rooney nodded home a wayward Anthony Martial effort to put the visitors two nil up. It then feel to new boy Zlatan Ibrahimovic to grab United’s third goal, with a fabulous strike from outside the area to keep up his impressive record of scoring on his debut. Adam Smith scored a consolation goal, a great strike to the left of David De Gea.
United needed a big performance following eighteen months of sluggish, negative and pedestrian football under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho’s men didn’t disappoint.
New boy Eric Bailly looks like he has played alongside Daley Blind for years. United’s new defender, making his Premier League debut, was a rock at the back. Strong in the tackle on Josh King, numerous times, the former Villarreal man does indeed go in hard and looks to be a superb addition by the Portuguese. Mourinho was quick to point out after the game that Bailly had indeed been injured for the most of the week, and had only trained for the first time yesterday. “He was injured all week and only trained for the first time yesterday”, the Portuguese said after the match. “A physio has to take a percentage of his MOTM” joked Mourinho, following the awarding of the man of the match to the Ivorian – a week after he received the same accolade in the 2-1 victory over Leicester City in the Community Shield. The United manager will surely deploy both Blind, who was also excellent today, and Bailly in the centre of defence – leaving Chris Smalling on the bench, next Friday with the welcome of Southampton to Old Trafford.
It wasn’t just the backline that proved sturdy against Bournemouth today, with the two man midfield of Ander Herrera, who was celebrating his 27th birthday, and Marouane Fellaini solid in front of the defence. It was Herrera’s long ball, that caused issues for Francis for the first United goal and the Spaniard knocked the ball around the park with the freedom the midfielder quite clearly yearned for in the previous two campaigns that he has been at the club. The arrival of Paul Pogba clearly puts pressure on the likes of Herrera, Michael Carrick, Morgan Schneiderlin and Fellaini – but both players who started will have done themselves justice and will feel like they’ve earned a starting spot on the team sheet next Friday night. Fellaini was excellent. His passing was crisp, concise and assertive – a far cry from the wayward ball that let Jamie Vardy in seven days ago. It will be an interesting development under the guidance of Mourinho and many reds will be keen to see if the Belgian can keep this form going.
With Juan Mata, who would no doubt have been encouraged by the cries of “it’s you Juan, Juan”, opening his account for the season – and it was down to his attacking colleagues to get in on the act. Rooney, who was better than many reds might suggest, closed the gap on Sir Bobby Charlton to just four goals United’s second. The skipper had a tame effort in the first half, should have scored past Boruc early in the second and was lucky not to be booked for a soft dive just before he scored. United’s number ten still has qualities to offer this side, but his pace has decline in recent seasons – so he is reliant on the likes of Anthony Martial running in behind. However, it was Rooney’s strike partner who surely stole all the headlines.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has only been at the club a for a few weeks, but his influence on the team would have you believe he has been here for years. Laughing and joking in the week with new signing Pogba on making him “famous”, the Swede showcased just why Mourinho brought him to the club with a superb debut league goal. A low drive into the bottom corner gave Bournemouth goalkeeper Boruc no chance – PSG’s all time top goalscorer is up and running in England. Ibrahimovic is the type of player that will drift in and out of games, which is why many do compare his influence to Eric Cantona – and his beautiful backheel touches is almost reminiscent of the Frenchman from all those years ago. The Portuguese was full of praise for his main forward post match, suggesting that he will be phenomenal for United and the Premier League for a couple of seasons.
This guy [Zlatan] is more than a player. For the next 2 seasons I think he can be phenomenal for the team & the Premier League.
Ibrahimovic did cost United zero, he is pretty tall at 6 foot 5 and, as many Premier League defenders will find out this season, he is quite hard as well.