Bournemouth vs. Man Utd || 14th Aug 2016
Well, notwithstanding the much needed win over champions Leicester City last week resulting in some initial silverware and confidence coming in towards Old Trafford, is it too early to say if the Mourinho era is well and truly underway? I think it is.
The 3–1 victory today is as good a result Mourinho would have wanted including the goal that went against him, just to make him realise, as he rightly said so himself, that this is the first step towards the marathon that is the Premier League.
Any skeptic doubting Ibra’s intention in joining Man Utd for one final pay-day in Europe before he has the pick of the world's B-leagues to go earn many more millions would have been encouraged to see the 6’5” swede launch himself to meet a Valencia cross while trying to wedge himself out of a Bournemouth centre back sandwich. The near thunderous impact that resulted was not only enough to leave one of the defenders on the floor requiring further treatment but Ibra himself had to gingerly jog back to his bench for one of the medics to confirm he was in fact, not bleeding.
What a welcome!
As refreshing as it was to see Ibra finally instil some swagger in the Utd attack, all of us were only one Rooney touch or pass away from sensing the ship hasn’t drifted too far away from the dock as yet. With his laborious running, lack of touch/confidence and overall nervousness, Mourinho has already done well to hold up a mirror to Rooney that he is no longer top dog in a mediocre team. Mourinho knows this well. By giving Rooney enough starting opportunities with the new recruits along with the revitalised old guard, it’s only a matter of time before the few remaining Utd fans realise just how far off their Captain has fallen from what is required at this level. And when that happens don’t expect a lot of sympathy rushing in for him from the faithful, they would have by then realised the significance of finally having a manager who calls a spade and spade and does not lose sleep over whether is he liked or not by his players. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Moyes or LVG. Mourinho knows very well that he is unarguably the most successful man when he speaks in the dressing room. That fact and similar results like this will allow him to yield the hair dryer that has been missing badly since SAF’s departure.
Start Sports(The broadcaster here is India) and the new design layout adopted by the EPL also made for a very frustrating 1st half adding to the stale football we have come to expect off the Red Devils.
Thankfully all that changed in the 2nd. Mata was rewarded for his tenacity while chasing a back pass that held up short from its intended target. He was doubly fortunate to be able to make something out of it having seen his first shot blocked by the keeper and the resulting ricochet falling for him nicely off the defender onto his path for a simple tap in.
You could sense the collective sigh of relief through the screen as it happened. None more so than from Mata himself. Playing his usual typical game, where you expect a certain quality but nothing more and nothing less, you can begin to sense why Mourinho is not as crazy about him as some Utd fans are. His lack of speed along with the cement footed Fellaini and the already-much-maligned-here Rooney are glaringly obvious in the refreshed setup. A prime example was thrown up by the player himself in the 70th min when having beaten a Bournemouth player with his customary skill and technique, he chose to throw himself to the ground scamming a free kick from the referee instead of making up the ground so as to avoid make obvious his lack of speed to get to the ball.
Herrera on the other hand was wonderful. I think it’s a shame he didn’t get enough mins under LVG and the work he has put in pre-season surely makes it evident for everyone the benefits of having a proper one. He not only possesses the technique and eye for a pass that is so coveted in Mata and Carrick but supplements that with the odd goal and overall defensive capability that’s lacking sorely in both. Given enough time and trust, I think he’s only a not too distant second to a fully fit and acclimatised Pogba in the Utd midfield pecking order. He’s much better than anyone else. He along with Valencia are the obvious players who, based on the evidence of the 1st game, seem to have picked up a second wind in their back with Mourinho’s arrival.
Valencia was a threat on the right throughout the match and it was heartening to see a Utd player beat a man on the wings to get crosses in.
Whatever happened to that anyway?
Rooney was fortunate to be at the receiving end of a mis-timed Martial shot from a cross on the right and he found enough time and space to direct a tricky header past the Bournemouth goalkeeper for Utd’s second. Without intending to be harsh but expect the captain to break the records he has waiting for him this season only by having opportunities where he’s required to have 100% of his experience, 75% of his physical attribute/skill and only 50% of the time/space that the opposition may or may not allow.
This may be the beginning of the end for Rooney at the very top level.
Which one hopes contrasts nicely with the ascendancy of the other attacker’s, Ibra included. His well controlled shot from distance was testament to the lack of star power and audacity that has been missing from the team. I can’t remember when I saw a Utd player score from outside the box last. Only several Ronaldo and the occasional Nani/Scholes strike comes to mind.
Mourinho certainly has a lot of positives to take away from this match. All the debutantes did well and it’s certainly exciting to anticipate the addition of Pogba to this mix. Bailly seems accomplished as a centre back and certainly has the confidence on ball that is now standard for top defenders. As long as he can contain the occasional David Luiz-esque challenge/tackle, he seems to be an astute buy. We’ll know for sure once he comes up against better opposition though.
We didn’t get to see too much of Mkh but for a cute nutmeg in a tight space whets the appetite for more. Let’s hope we get a lot more of him as he must be some player to be voted Bundesliga’s player’s player of the year last season. The league is no slouch and to be voted amongst your peers over an armada of Bayern Munich player suggests he has a lot more than what Mourinho may want to use/expose right now.
Things should get better from here. One hopes with Smalling’s return next week alongside Bailly, Utd may finally be able to muster the kind of defensive partnership not seen since Ferdinand/Vidic. De Gea, for one, should be happy to muster a few clean sheets and lessen the out-of-thin-air saves that we have come to unfairly expect from him.
Can’t wait next week for Pogba’s return.
Top of the league and excited!