Early statement of intent from Manchester United


In what started as a cagey affair at the Vitality Stadium, Manchester United eventually moved up through the gears and eased past Bournemouth in their first Premier League fixture under Jose Mourinho.

The 3-1 victory by no means saw a United side at full throttle, but the early signs suggest these players have put last season behind them and are ready to return to the summit of English football. At the time of writing, Mourinho’s team are 11/4 to win the league, but with a few more performances like this they could emerge as frontrunners for the title.

Superstar signing, Zlatan Ibrahimović, was impressive in his work rate and eagerness to bring other team members into the fray and there are early indications that a partnership between the Swede and Wayne Rooney is about to flourish. Last season’s top scorer in Ligue 1 clearly has the winning mentality required to succeed, and it is rubbing off on teammates.

Ander Herrera seems to have adapted well to his role in central midfield. He controlled the play well, and it meant that Rooney could charge forward with more freedom rather than having to drop back. The Spaniard was reminiscent of another of Mourinho’s old charges, John Obi Mikel who is currently competing in the Olympics with Nigeria, who are 5/1 to win the tournament in the Olympic betting. Herrera will be eager to draw similarities with one of Mourinho’s ex-Chelsea midfielders, as there is going to be fierce competition for places in the centre of the park this season.

The central defensive partnership between Daley Blind and new boy Eric Bailly looked solid, apart from the lapse of concentration that allowed the Cherries to get their goal. The Red Devils had one of the best defensive records in the league last season and this looks set to continue under the new manager. This was a United team without Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for most of the game, and it is exciting to think just how good they can be when they start to properly gel together as a team and have all the big players on at the same time. If Herrera can continue to dictate the play in the holding midfield positions, this will allow Paul Pogba, who is likely to replace Marouane Fellaini in the double pivot, to storm forward and attack.

Juan Mata had a reasonably good game and scored the opening goal, but he looked tired and slow at times. There are still question marks over the winger’s future under Mourinho. Mkhitaryan should be able to provide more pace from out wide on the right, the same way Anthony Martial does from the left.

The Red Devils now have the chance to build some momentum ahead of what will be the real test of how far they have come under Mourinho. On September 10th they entertain Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City at Old Trafford, and if they can sweep aside their biggest rivals for the title, United must then be considered favourites to win the league.

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