The wait is over. We can now start to rant and rave about proper football again for the next ten months rather than have fits about international tournaments or friendlies. Though we can delay that for another week as Jose Mourinho and our new signings began their official assignments as United employees with a win against English Champions Leicester.
In a game that was overshadowed by the re-signing of Paul Pogba (no way we can avoid talking about him this week!), it was interesting to see the mixture of old and new in the starting line-up, and many were as excited to see Ibrahimovic and Bailly in the first eleven as many were frustrated to see Fellaini getting the nod ahead of Mickey T (Mkhitaryan), Herrera, Mata, Schneiderlin and a few other midfielders that could start ahead of him.
With Leicester playing as they had for most of last season, it was quite an entertaining match to watch, and after half an hour we had our first goal of the season. And what a goal it was too. Jesse Lingard, who had scored United’s last goal of the Van Gaal era to win the FA Cup in May, went past five Leicester players before he slotted home to score United’s first goal of the Mourinho era. Though the Leicester defenders could have done better, it was a joy to watch Lingard make the most of his start and scoring at Wembley again.
The second half was quite balanced too, and soon after it started last season’s ‘sensation’ Jamie Vardy equalised after being put through by none other than Fellaini, who thought it was a good idea to pass back to De Gea after winning the ball in midfield.
When the game seemed to be heading for a draw, Zlatan Ibrahimovic leapt highest to head an Antonio Valencia cross into the net and make sure that (according to himself) he won his 31st trophy in an illustrious career as the game finished 2-1 in favour of United. Of course we know that the Charity Shield doesn’t count, but I doubt there’s anyone who’d have the guts to tell that to Ibrahimovic’s face, so we’ll let him count it.
Though this game is just a glorified friendly, it was excellent to see United win another game at Wembley as this was the club’s 21st victory in the season’s curtain raiser (17 wins, 4 shared). It was also nice to see the team getting another run-out before the league starts as there still seems to be a lot of work for Mourinho to do to get the side playing properly and gelling together.
The main news this week was about Paul Pogba coming back to United for a gazillion pounds (£90m, I know, but what difference does it make when it’s THAT much?). Though it’s excellent to see that Mourinho and Ed Woodward are not messing about to try and get the club back to the top again, it’s ridiculous to think that one human being can cost that sort of money, no matter who it is.
I’ve been saying this since Alan Shearer went to Newcastle for £15m, so it’s not just because I’m getting old that I’m having a bit of a moan about how much players cost (I was a lot less old in 1996, obviously).
Having said that, we’d rather Pogba has come to United instead of going elsewhere, and better that these millions get spent to improve the team rather than improve the Glazers’ pockets. Though you have to imagine that they’ve spent this money on him knowing that if United don’t qualify for the Champions League next season, sponsors like adidas will be giving them less money than anticipated so they’re investing for their own future too.
In other United news, Paddy McNair and Donald Love are joining David Moyes at Sunderland as they signed four year contracts to ply their trade at the Stadium of Light. Hopefully they’ll both have successful careers even if it’s away from Old Trafford; Adnan Januzaj might soon be joining them though on a season long loan. As good as he can be, it seems that his attitude has irritated our new manager as it had those before him; Meanwhile, Timothy Fosu-Mensah has agreed a new four year contract to stay at the club, so we hope youngsters like him still get a chance to flourish under Mourinho’s guidance.
We now very much look forward to the Premier League kicking off this weekend, and when you think that one of Mourinho, Guardiola, Klopp, Wenger, Conte, Pochettino and Ranieri (remember, he manages the Champions of England) can only finish seventh at best, there’s a lot to get excited (or worried about). Not to mention the likes of Ronald Koeman, Claude Puel and David Moyes (tsk, tsk).
For all it is worth, I think United will fight for second place (City my favourites to win the league). Chelsea, L’pool, Arsenal and possibly Tottenham will challenge each other for third and fourth. Just in case you feel tempted to back my predictions, I thought Chelsea would win the league last season while United would finish third, so hold on to your hard earned cash!
United start the new campaign at Bournemouth on Sunday (1:30pm UK time). There’s every chance that Pogba will line-up alongside Ibrahimovic, Mickey T, Bailly and Fellaini. What’s there not to be excited about? COME ON UNITED!!!