Manchester United beat Galatasaray in their final pre-season match of the summer away from British soil. Playing the match at the Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his debut, scoring within four minutes with a pretty spectacular scissor kick goal. Jose Mourinho won his first match with a full first team also demonstrating the strength-in-depth in his squad. United trailed 2-1 at the break with the Turkish side scoring two relatively quick goals to take the lead in the run-up to half-time. Five changes at the start of the second half changed things for United with Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford all replacing Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Wayne Rooney equalised ten minutes into the second half, scoring a penalty three minutes after that to put United ahead. Just after the hour Fellaini scored with a header to put United 4-2 up and Juan Mata scored the fifth goal with 15 minutes to go, six minutes after Mourinho made a block of six changes; Sergio Romero, Matteo Darmian, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Memphis Depay and Juan Mata replace David De Gea, Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw and Wayne Rooney. United did well to get the better or Galatasaray, who at the end of the first half were dominating. Antonio Valencia was named Man of the Match after making three assists in the match; Ibrahimovic’s opener, Rooney’s first and Mata’s goal.
The Portuguese manager came to United to win. Winning is what all manager’s want. Winning is the main aim of the game. Winning means you are a success. In the past we have seen a manager who aspired to be like Manchester City, wanting to be more like oppositions teams. Manchester United only needs to be one thing – Manchester United! Mourinho seems to have done his homework during the time he was sacked by Chelsea, until being appointed as United manager – some six months, looked at what was missing from United and how he was going to change that. He has changed the training schedule, and showed us all through his Instagram account, brought in player with attributes United were missing and most important of all, he has made players happy – the ones he wants to keep anyway. Happy players make a happy team. Being a dictator and stopping your players from doing certain things, even restricting them on the pitch might look good, might create a foundation, but long-term, there were always going to be problems. Now, under Mourinho we have not seen anything like that yet, but so far, so good. Mourinho has been able to use his squad in two matches on tour, it would have been three if Beijing knew a good pitch when they saw one. He has an idea who is for the chopping board, seemingly has sorted some of that out already. He has an idea of which players will be the core of his squad, playing the majority of matches, others who can come in and change the game. The victory over Galatasaray saw that with five changes at the start of the second half, effectively changing the game with them. Mourinho seems to be the guy who was passed over three years ago, who would have been the guy that may have changed the clubs poor temporary history – that we may never know, but looking forward, things seem right at this moment in time.
It’s Zlatan time
Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his Manchester United debut against Galatasaray after more than a month waiting for that day to come. He did not waste any time scoring a scissor kick goal inside the first four minutes of the match. His experience and winning mentality will do United some good this season, after seeing that eroding away over the last three years. Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United seems to have disappeared with the side emerging into a different team – a winning one. Last season, United may have dominated most matches they played, but scoring goals seemed to be a problem during many matches. This season, with Ibrahimovic to bolster the forward line, that could very well change. The Swede is a winner, wants to win and came to Manchester to do just that. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a winner, a thoroughbred winner at that. Winning league titles in every league he has played in, so far at least and wanting to maintain that record so he can end his career knowing that he was the best at what he did. This season, with the Swede, could inspire Manchester United to their twenty-first league title – announcing to all the clubs rivals that they are back!
Attack is the best form of defence
United’s attacking options this season looks a lot better than what they had last season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard et al. United have a playmaker in Mkhitaryan, something that was missing last season, especially with Rooney out of form and on the sidelines. A clinical finisher was also missing, in Ibrahimovic, that is now present. Talent was not something United was short of, though. Both Martial and Rashford have talent but lacked the experience to make them better players. United did not, other than Rooney, have a player that could teach them to bring the best of their potential. In the Swede, United now have a player to pass off his knowledge, skills and mentality down to them, call it an inheritance. United can attack with flair, pace and footballing brain, which can cause the opposition team to concede like was seen in the second half against Galatasaray. United’s attack look good again. In the past, United destroyed teams 4-0, 5-0, 6-0, 8-2 even 9-1. Having a team that can do that to an opponent is a great ingredient to a winning team. United may concede goals, but scoring them should not longer be the problem – which was clearly present last season.
The defence might be problematic
Against Galatasaray, United had Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind and Luke Shaw as the back four. This is obviously not the strongest, but with Chris Smalling injured and not in Sweden, Mourinho had to make do with the options he had. It is safe to say after last season, both Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones would not be at the top of anyone’s list to start with Bailly and Blind trusted a bit more. Smalling has not played this pre-season, so if fit, Rooney’s testimonial will be his first game – failing that, the FA Community Shield might be his first, or Southampton at Old Trafford a week into the season as he is not eligible to face Bournemouth due to him being sent off in the FA Cup final. Galatasaray managed to score twice against Bailly and Blind, so there might be a weakness there – Bailly is only 22, so will adapt to the speed of the Premier League, but he might be a gamble. Many would like to see him play alongside Smalling to see how both perform, as that could be the first choice partnership. Valencia did well against Galatasaray, getting three assists and finding his man with crosses, which was good to see, but the question will be whether he can do that during each match, or whether Matteo Darmian will take his place back in the right-back role. Until Mourinho has settled with his back four, we might see the defence leaking goals, but with the attack United have, it might be alright, temporarily.
Pre-season has not been the best for United this summer
United beat Wigan Athletic 2-0 before heading to China for what they thought would be a good pre-season tour and enable the new manager to test his squad, or at least the players who travelled. The 4-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund showed that the German side, who had played four matches prior, were much fitter than United. As Mourinho said at the time, the best team does not always win in pre-season, the fittest one does. The match three days later against Manchester City in Beijing might have been the test United were looking for, both sides had done as much in pre-season so far, so fitness would be similar – no advantage either way. That match though was cancelled, which left United with two matches before the FA Community Shield; one of those being Wayne Rooney’s testimonial. It would be fair to say that this pre-season has not been the best for United, who went a week between matches because of the cancellation in Beijing. Mourinho will have to decide on a squad to travel to Wembley based on one more match; at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening. Yes, he can see the player in training, but being able to see them perform in a live match is much better than seeing players train. I am sure Mourinho and his squad will get through it, but there might be a little rustiness at the start of the season.