MANCHESTER UNITED needed just two minutes and 25
seconds to find top gear.
Their season preparations threatened to stall yet again when
the team bus got held up on the way to Old Trafford.
But stand-in skipper Paul Pogba soon took the handbrake off
their campaign by scoring United’s fastest ever opening day
goal in the Premier League.
Things did not exactly run smoothly for the next 80 minutes –
and Leicester were the better side for much of it.
And to cap a much-needed win for Jose Mourinho, Luke Shaw
– who has endured such a tough time under this manager –
scored his first ever goal.
Surely even Jose could have a smile at that as he consigned a
nightmare pre-season to the history books.
Pogba came into the game after a week of speculation about
his Old Trafford future – with Barcelona keen on a big money
But Mourinho not only picked him to start – after just four days
of pre-season training – he also made him skipper.
He made it clear it was not a permanent appointment – just
while Antonio Valencia recovers from a calf injury.
Even so, it would have given the World Cup winner a boost as
his hopes of a move to the Nou Camp will not materialise this
The United boss has moaned about the problems of players
returning so late from the World Cup.
Yet he selected five players in his squad who featured in the
final weekend of the competition just four weeks ago.
That was one of several gripes the Portuguese had during pre-
season – and there was a last one in the build up to this game
The team coach taking the Red Devils across town to Old
Trafford got stuck in rush hour traffic and only arrived an hour
Mourinho would also have been interested to see Harry
Maguire starting for the Foxes – a move Claude Puel admitted
was ‘a risk’.
The England World Cup hero was one of several centre backs
targeted by United during the transfer window.
Like Pogba, Maguire had only been back in training for a
handful of days after his summer break.
Like his team-mates though, he was reeling after the start
made by United.
After just 77 seconds they had a penalty as Alexis Sanchez
shot was blocked and the ball cannoned into the arm of Danie
Referee Andre Marriner pointed to the spot and Pogba tip-toe
upto the penalty before beating Kasper Schmeichel.
What a start and what a moment.
United’s £89 million record signing certainly did not start like
man who has set his heart on a move to Spain.
Leicester could have let their heads drop but they played their
way back into it – targeting Matteo Darmian at right back.
Ben Chilwell and Demarai Gray were getting plenty of joy
against the Italian – who looked certain to leave United and
return home this summer.
However it was an attack down the other flank that almost
brought an equaliser as Adrien Silva pulled back for James
The summer signing from Norwich got his shot away from 10
yards but David de Gea saved superbly and the rebound was
Even so the performance of the Foxes new boy would not
have escaped the notice of the watching Gareth Southgate.
Ironically the Three Lions boss was sat in the directors box
alongside his two-time World Cup foe Roberto Martinez.
New £47 million signing Fred was lucky to escape without
punishment after planting a kick on the back of Gray’s leg after
the ball had gone.
And United had lost their way a little since their early goal but
finished the half strongly.
Luke Shaw – handed a rare start – got himself into a good
position after swapping passes with Juan Mata but his low
shot was straight at Schmeichel.
Even so, Puel must have been happy with pretty much
everything about his team’s first 45 minutes of the season –
apart from the score.
For all Leicester’s promising build-up they were struggling to
fashion any efforts on target.
Former Manchester City man Kelechi Iheanacho looked to be
bursting clear but was expertly shackled by Eric Bailly.
And back up the other end, United could have wrapped it up
as Pogba and Sanchez combined but Mata’s effort was deflected wide.
Puel threw on Jamie Vardy just after the hour in a bid to
provide more of a threat to de Gea’s goal.
And he certainly livened things up, shoving Shaw to the floor
and crossing from Gray – who forced another smart save out
of de Gea.
United fluffed a chance to settle the nerves of the home
crowd late on as Sanchez – who had a mixed night – squared
for sub Romelu Lukaku.
The Belgian had time and space but Schmeichel made himsel
a big target – as his dad Peter so often did here – and saved
with his feet.
It could have been a costly miss for the home side with just a
one goal lead going into the final few minutes.
But Shaw made the points safe as took a pass from Mata. The
former southampton man fluffed his first kick.
Luckily for him he got another chance and stretched to steer
low shot past Schmeichel.
The Foxes got the goal their efforts deserved when Vardy
tapped in at the back post in stoppage time. But United held