Jose Mourinho and his Manchester United team are off to a winning start and although it is just the Community Shield, a trophy never hurts. The game lacked action and was progressing at a rather slow pace until Jesse Lingard decided to do his Lionel Messi impression and ran through the Leicester City defense to score an amazing goal to register the first goal on the scoreline. Marouane Fellaini, who to everyone’s surprise, started the game, did all he could to give Leicester the equalizer decorated on a silver plate. He did well to intercept the ball and then went on to pass it on to Jamie Vardy so that he could score one of the easier goals to put them on level terms. But the United manager did exactly what was expected and spread the blame elsewhere
“Fellaini’s mistake was a mistake of the slow pitch.”
However, with only seven minutes to go Antonio Valencia, who has looked a completely different player under Mourinho, crossed a delightful ball to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who headed it in to get back in to the lead, which in the end turned out to be the full-time scoreline. The striker looked delighted with his strike and the final result and reiterated his optimism towards Mourinho’s team and his project.
“There’s something big going on. We’re in the beginning and we begin with a trophy.”
Mourinho on the other side looked pretty composed and balanced with his reaction to the win and his team’s performance:
“I would be not ambitious if I say that we had a fantastic performance because it was not a fantastic performance. It was a possible performance for this moment of the season. Some of these guys today they have one week of training – Martial, Ibrahimovic, Fellaini. The other ones had two weeks, no pre-season in China, a very bad pre-season, so I think step by step we are changing, but I think it’s always important to start with a trophy.”
What was evident was the fitness which is still lacking a bit and will only get better when the players get more minutes
“The first half was much better than the second which doesn’t surprise me because the team is not fit enough and in condition to keep the stability in the game. In the second half when they increased the pace by bringing on three quick players in Gray and Musa plus Vardy, they changed the game to their style. I think it’s an important victory but of course we have lots of work to do.”
This side still has a lot of hangover from Louis Van Gaal’s time and a lot of style one sees right now comes from that. It was evident in today’s game too, that the squad has some troubles getting through to the final third and Mourinho feels that with time and practice, the players will adapt to his style of play which is different from the one fans saw last season. Also, this is what players like Zlatan will benefit from.
“Zlatan will be more dangerous when we are more dominant and play closest to the box. Zlatan is not a very fast player to play 50 metres away from the box like where Vardy can be dangerous. Zlatan needs the team to play, he needs the team to produce and he needs the team to be arriving in the final third. It’s something that we also have to change because the profile of this team was more about possession of the ball. Even arriving in crossing positions, the team normally plays back again and tries to change to the other side. We are trying to change. The reality is the second goal is a great example of that.”
One thing a lot of fans were worried about when Mourinho came in as the manager was his erratic behavior in the press conferences and interviews. But if today was anything to go by, he seems to be giving answers which are almost ideal to an extent. The best example is when he did not forget to thanks and dedicate the trophy to his predecessor.
“I have to thank Mr van Gaal because without the victory in the FA Cup we wouldn’t be here today so I am getting a trophy for the club and the boys and the fans and myself but I’m playing this match not because I won the FA Cup, I play this match because Mr van Gaal won the FA Cup so congratulations to him because he’s part of this.”
Another incident which might have snowballed in to something controversial was the Juan Mata substitution. The Spaniard was reportedly “upset” upon being substituted after he came on as a second-half substitute. However, a quick clarification on the reason behind the change helped avoid any kind of misunderstanding.
“Juan played well. He gave me exactly what I need. I have to take the smallest player off because the game will end in long balls.”
No United related report today can be complete without the mention of Paul Pogba and Mourinho too had to give his reaction on the situation now that it has been officially announced. The manager had a sense of relief in his reply when asked if the transfer is now over the line.
“I think so, finally. It’s an amazing situation that such a great player is with us. Finally we have him. He comes to a winning side, who have won the Cup Final and the Community Shield. He has to work hard to come to the team. I only heard this information just before the game.”
He also made it evident that he was keeping tabs on the French midfielder’s social media activity when he expressed confidence that there won’t be any last-minute hiccups with the medical as the player has managed to keep himself in a good shape.
“If he goes well in the medical right? Which I think he does. I saw him Instagramming. Swimming, karate, running, basketball, football, he does everything, so he must be fit. So yes, Tuesday I will be waiting there for him.”
He also took tongue-in-cheek digs at Barcelona and one of his former employers while explaining why the move to United would be the best choice for Pogba at the stage of his career.
“United is the perfect club to bring him to the level he wants to be, the Premier League is the perfect habitat for that. If you want to be the best player in the world, if you go to Barcelona or Real Madrid, you are in trouble, because I don’t think the two guys there will let you play at that level.
“So we have everything to give him and we know the reasons why he wants to come to us. Money he will get in any big club, so he comes because he knows the club, he knows the city, he knows some of the players, he wants to be an important part of the Man United project. So hopefully everything goes well and he comes to us.”
With the world record transfer in the picture, there was going to be a question about the money and the manager certainly hit them out of the park
“I don’t think it’s a reason to be sad, it’s a reason to be proud, with the dimension of the club that can do that and can attract players of this dimension. If you ask me do I think it’s a lot of money I think football is crazy, the market has become crazy, what you think this season is crazy you realise three years later not crazy anymore and I think there are players who cost £10million who are super-expensive, so what is expensive I don’t know anymore. I just know he’s a big player who’s going to be important for a big club like Man United and he will be proud to belong to such a big club.”
With an auspicious start, the club, the new manager with his new looking team and the fans should be looking forward to what the new season brings. Hopefully, this is one of the many more trophies that the Red Devils manage to bring home in the next few years. Here’s to the positive start to a crucial new season.