Manchester United made their return to competitive football in triumphant fashion, as they faced league champions Leicester City in the Community Shield, and came out 2-1 winners. Following a rocky pre-season that includes a heavy 4-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund and a cancelled game against Manchester City, this result can be the one to jump-start United’s season. Manager Jose Mourinho made some interesting decisions for the starting lineup, the biggest one being the omission of summer signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the Armenian starting from the bench. Also noteworthy was the inclusion of Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick in central midfield, with Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin on the bench.
Jesse Lingard opened the scoring with a beautiful surging run through the middle, leaving multiple Leicester players in the dust. Jamie Vardy equalised after taking advantage of a mistake from Fellaini and rounding David De Gea. Last, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the winner with a towering header from an Antonio Valencia cross. Throughout the game, United was never the one looking most eager to go at the opposition, preferring to retain the balance of the team. Because of this, the attackers didn’t shine as much as might have been expected. Lingard was the exception, as he was a threat in a more free role in the attack, with his direct and pacy runs with the ball.
In defence full-backs, Valencia and Luke Shaw both played admirably. Shaw did well keeping last season’s PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez at bay until his eventual substitution, as well as providing support in attack, while Valencia was more impressive offensively, playing with more confidence than he’s had in recent years, culminating in the match-winning assist.
However, one performance stood out above the rest, that of Eric Bailly. The debutant got off to a shaky start, beaten by Vardy early on in the match, but he quickly recovered and started to establish himself in the game. He spent much of the game going up against Vardy, competing with his pace, and more often than not, he came out on top. A major highlight of the battle happened around the half-hour mark, as a through ball sent Vardy on a run, with Bailly the only one on him. He keeps up with Vardy for pace and intervenes with a great slide tackle in the box. Bailly’s contribution went beyond just Vardy, as showed by his great determination in winning the ball from both Ahmed Musa and Riyad Mahrez in a terrific double challenge
He wasn’t flawless, yes. Aside from the earlier Vardy incident, he also went down too eagerly in tackling Vardy and that lead to the striker getting through on goal. He also had some help from defensive partner Daley Blind, who was a calming influence in defence, compared to Bailly’s more aggressive style. Despite this, Bailly still went away with a debut most defenders would be more than happy with. He kept out a major threat for much of the game and deserves to be the Man of the Match of United’s triumph.