Jose Mourinho began his Manchester United reign in the Premier League with a 3-1 victory over Bournemouth as Zlatan Ibrahimovic caught the eye and got himself on the scoresheet once again for his new club.
(Premier League | 14 August 2016 | Vitality Stadium | Scorers: A.Smith 69′ / Mata 40′, Rooney 64′, Ibrahimovic 69′)
It was Juan Mata, playing in his 52nd consecutive league game for United having not missed one since February 2015, who put the Reds ahead after capitalising on a defensive area just before the break. Wayne Rooney headed a second after the interval, before the impressive Ibrahimovic drilled home from 25 yards. An Adam Smith strike was a mere consolation for Bournemouth.
Mourinho made two changes to the side that won at Wembley in the Community Shield seven days earlier as Jesse Lingard, who picked up a knock in that game, and Michael Carrick made way for Mata and Ander Herrera. There were Premier League debuts for Eric Bailly – in imperious form at the back alongside Daley Blind – Ibrahimovic and, later in the match, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, while Antonio Valencia notched his 250th appearance for the Reds.
The Ecuadorian and Swede had already linked well during pre-season with Valencia setting up Ibrahimovic for a goal on his friendly debut in Gothenburg and another on his official Reds bow at Wembley. And the duo almost combined again on 13 minutes but Simon Francis bravely rose to head clear as Ibrahimovic was about to pounce. That was the only real half-chance of any note during a scrappy and pretty even opening 20 minutes.
United’s main threat was down the right side, with Valencia seeing plenty of the ball in attack. He was involved in the best move of the opening period on 27 minutes when Herrera found him in space. His pull-back found Mata who set up Wayne Rooney, but the skipper couldn’t get enough pace on the ball to trouble Artur Boruc.
In keeping with the scrappiness of the game, the Reds took the lead five minutes before the interval after a double defensive error from Francis. The defender attempted to play Herrera’s ball over the top to his keeper but his backpass was too short, allowing Mata to steal in. His shot was saved by Boruc but the ball rebounded back off Francis into the Spaniard’s path and he had the simple task of tapping home from close range.SA
Possession: Bournemouth 51% United 49%
Shots: Bournemouth 3 United 5
Shots on target: Bournemouth 0 United 3
Corners: Bournemouth 0 United 2
Both teams turned things up a notch at the start of the second period, with Rooney going close on 51 minutes after he latched onto a lovely mid-air flick from Ibrahimovic, but Boruc came out to block his effort.
After a Rooney penalty appeal had been waved away, the captain got himself on the scoresheet for goal 246 of his Reds career. A lovely flick from Mata found Valencia and his centre was mishit by Anthony Martial straight to Rooney, who headed home with ease.
The Reds were enjoying themselves in the Bournemouth sunshine and things got even better for Mourinho’s men just after the hour mark. A minute after Ibrahimovic had seen a free-kick brilliantly saved by Boruc, the Swede picked up possession 25 yards out and angled a lovely low drive into the bottom corner to make it two goals in two competitive games for the Reds, ensuring he has now scored on his Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and Champions League bows.
That looked to be game over, but Adam Smith gave the hosts hope on 69 minutes when he cut inside from the right and blasted an effort into the top corner.
The Reds held firm from there on, however, with David De Gea making a superb save in stoppage time, and ensured a winning start for Mourinho in his first league game. United fans will hope this is the first of many.
Possession: Bournemouth 47% United 53%
Shots: Bournemouth 5 United 11
Shots on target: Bournemouth 1 United 7
Corners: Bournemouth 2 United 2
United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw; Fellaini, Herrera; Mata (Mkhitaryan 75), Rooney (c) (Memphis 89), Martial (Schneiderlin 85); Ibrahimovic.
Subs not used: Romero, Rojo, Carrick, Rashford.
Bournemouth: Boruc, Francis (c), A.Smith, S.Cook, Daniels, Arter, L.Cook (Gradel 82), Surman, King, Ibe (Afobe 68), Wilson (Grabban 67).
Subs not used: Federici, Gosling, Ake, B.Smith.
“I’m really happy. It’s just the start; we need to improve every day. But we won and that’s the most important thing.” – Jose Mourinho
“It’s always nice when you’re scoring. I had a couple of chances and maybe could have got one more, but I was pleased with my overall performance and getting the goal and the three points.” – Wayne Rooney
“I always try to create some chances to help my team-mates. Whoever scored, it wouldn’t have been important, we just wanted to get the win and start the Premier League season well. It feels good [to be in the Premier League]. I feel alive.” – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
“The new guys are good and bring quality. Zlatan had one chance and got one goal which is good for us. [Eric] Bailly was strong defensively and in the Premier League we need that and we hope he can continue like that.” – Marouane Fellaini