Manchester United started the 2018/ 2019 Premier League season with a 2-1 win over Leicester City at Old Trafford and contributing writer, Nathan Quao, of Citi Sports, Accra, Ghana, picks out the salient points from the first 90 minutes of the season.
Pogba was top stuff
Paul Pogba and his relationship with the manager, Jose Mourinho, was part of the headlines and many were wondering what the player would show especially when there was talk of interest from Barcelona and his perceived unhappy state.
He was handed the captain armband for the first game and he demonstrated a captain’s performance. He covered ground, sprayed passes, and threw himself about to lead the way for his mates to follow.
He was seen urging them on, making himself heard and trying to get them going.
And he scored a very cool, fancy penalty to get off the mark in a season that follows his exploits at the 2018 World Cup.
What is next then? Consistency. Pogba needs to give such performances every week and he must make this team his. He has the tools to make it happen and his confidence is a major weapon he should deploy and his team mates need to feel that they can depend on him to show his brilliance throughout the season.
The need for improvement is urgent
Despite Pogba’s output, it was glaring that the Red Devils were not operating at their best levels and had the opposition been better across 90 minutes, the 2-1 win would probably go to the visitors.
Man United looked leggy often and the passing was not crisp enough to make potential openings count for the team.
It is unclear what was slowing the team but large spells of the first half were played on the back foot. There was not enough movement and the drive to exploit counter attacks was lacking.
The situation improved in the second half and one could see that there was a bit of an edge to what was happening on the pitch.
No one knows how the manager will deal with this problem but things will have to get better before the season clicks into gear because at that point, the opposition would be in a better groove and their instincts would be sharpened to punish without delay.
Fred and Shaw thrive as Sanchez stalls
Man United newbie, Fred, left fans saying that he would help matters in midfield with his output. He looked lively and always wanted to get on the move. His tackling will need some polishing but that is not his biggest strength.
However, it was clear that he felt the full blast of the Premier League’s demands of physicality and pace.
He was seen panting heavily after about half an hour into the game but he soon got about doing his work.
He will certainly show more in coming games but he will need the presence of Nemanja Matic. The Serbian’s absence was too visible and the Man United central midfield area will need to find something to make up for that. If Leicester City could find spaces and utilise them to build attacks, then teams of better quality will make so much profit given the same circumstances.
Luke Shaw played out one of his best performances and he got a goal for his efforts. It is a goal that should do two things for the player. First, he should remind himself that he if he stays focused and applies himself, he will get to a good level.
The second reminder is that he can actually score and he should seek to see if he can chip in with a few during the season. The key part of the goal is Shaw’s act of watching Leicester goalie, Kasper Schmeichel’s, position before striking the ball. More of such awareness in good areas will serve Shaw well.
But while we praise Fred and Shaw, we need to point out that Sanchez was poor. He did the difficult things well but the final pass that was to open channels and spaces was very absent and the pattern repeated itself throughout the game.
The only pass that got through went to Lukaku but his shot was saved by Schmeichel.
A lot is expected of the Chilean this season. He got his summer rest for the first time in years. He had pre-season under his belt so the display against Leicester was below the required level and he must quickly improve.
The holiday period is over.
A winning start was important
With everything said and done, starting on a winning note was very important. The pressure of needing to win is gone and now, the team can focus on adding to its first three points.
The players should feel that if they apply themselves, the results will come. They need not place too much pressure on themselves to do the spectacular. They should try and play their best and get the victories.
They will breed confidence and that will bring the swagger.
Everyone always remembers the winners after 90 minutes and that should guide the team as they try to iron out the chinks and get another good season under their belts.