The Red Devils started their new Premier League campaign on a positive note as they ran out 3-1 winners against AFC Bournemouth on Sunday thanks to goals from Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
There were some positive takeaways from Manchester United’s win at the Vitality Stadium, but there are still some issues that manager Jose Mourinho needs to address before the Red Devils can really lay claim to being a top quality side. TheHardTackle takes a look at five talking points from the match.
1. Eric Bailly is a beast in defence
22-year-old Ivorian defender Eric Bailly was the first signing that Jose Mourinho made upon being appointed Man United manager. The former Villarreal centre-back’s display against Bournemouth showed just why he caught the eye of the Portuguese manager, whose teams are known for their defensive organisation.
Bailly was a dominant figure in the game as he took charge of the defence and imposed his physical presence on any of the Bournemouth attackers who made it to the United third. His man-marking was tenacious and assurance on the ball commendable. If his Premier League debut was anything to go by, the Ivorian looks poised to become one of the best defenders in the league.
2. Fellaini could be the midfield pivot alongside Pogba
Marouane Fellaini shut his critics up with a solid display in the season opener against the Cherries. The Belgian made the most tackles of the game (6) and misplaced just one of the 76 passes he made throughout the game. He acted as a shield to the defence, breaking up play when necessary and passing it back to the defence to restart again.
The arrival of Paul Pogba means that one of the central midfield positions is already booked. It had hitherto been believed that Morgan Schneiderlin or Ander Herrera were strong contenders to pair up with the world’s most expensive footballer, but Fellaini has made a strong case for himself in the opening game.
3. Dave still saves, but thankfully doesn’t have to do it as many times
Adam Smith did pull one back for the Cherries, but there was nothing that goalkeeper David de Gea could do about an accurate shot after some silky movement from the Bournemouth attackers. However, the Spaniard did pull off an excellent save from a Max Gradel shot in the dying minutes of the game.
The saviour of Old Trafford didn’t have much to do in the 90 minutes, with the Cherries only registering three shots on target. But his composure, presence and that quick save in the high-pressure final minutes shows that Dave is still ready to save.
4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic needs midfield service
The 34-year-old Swede is playing like he is in the prime of his career. Zlatan scored his second competitive goal for Manchester United in his second appearance, as he slotted in a long distance shot to put the Red Devils 3-0 up.
However, the performance did raise some issues about Zlatan’s pace and work rate. The iconic striker is best used as a target man and there were times that he got the ball in promising positions in midfield but couldn’t make the best use of it. These squandered chances could cost United against bigger teams and the work rate of the midfield should increase substantially to compensate for Zlatan’s relative lack of mobility.
5. Does Rooney deserve a starting spot?
England’s record goal scorer and Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney scored with a header to open his account for the new season. However, the goal does not gloss over the fact that the ageing superstar looked less than convincing in his number 10 role.
With the team already slowed down by Zlatan, and with the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jesse Lingard and Ander Herrera competing for a first-team place, it remains to be seen if Jose Mourinho persists with Rooney in the starting XI.