Goals from Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw secured Manchester United an underwhelming 2-1 victory over Leicester City in the opening game of the 2018-19 Premier League season.
United went into the campaign on the back of a tumultuous pre-season that was dominated by discontent and a lack of signings, leading to Jose Mourinho making veiled digs at the club's hierarchy and, while they secured all three points at home, the team's display was hardly an emphatic response.
Initially all looked rosy at Old Trafford, as United's encouraging start saw them go ahead through captain Pogba, but thereafter Leicester were the controlling force in the first period.
The only thing missing from Leicester's display was a killer instinct in the final third before Jamie Vardy's second-half introduction, though his stoppage-time effort was too little, too late, as Shaw's first senior goal seven minutes from time proved decisive in the final reckoning.
United stroked the ball around confidently during the early exchanges and that poise was personified by Pogba when he placed a third-minute penalty into the top-right corner after Daniel Amartey was adjudged to have handled Alexis Sanchez's deflected shot.
The early confidence soon dissipated, however, and Leicester were unlucky to go in at half-time trailing, with impressive debutant James Maddison drawing a marvellous save from David de Gea in the 29th minute.
The hosts improved after the break, looking a little more convincing in possession and preventing Leicester from crafting clear-cut chances.
Shaw finally doubled their advantage when he capitalised on his own heavy touch to squeeze a finish into the bottom-right corner and, while Vardy nodded in from close range at the end after Ricardo Pereira's cross came back off the post, the Red Devils just about did enough.
What it means: Much to improve on for United
The victory will do little to gloss over some glaring issues in this United team, and they generally come back to the coach.
Mourinho’s starting XI on Friday included a front six who would all be considered ball-playing types, those who are comfortable in possession and generally creative forces, whether from out wide or through the middle.
Yet, for long periods United's line-up failed to control proceedings and that, more than anything, gave Leicester real encouragement they could recover from the early setback.
Pat on the back: Maddison made for the top tier
England Under-21 international Maddison could not have picked a better place than Old Trafford to make his Premier League debut following a £25million move from Norwich City, yet he looked as cool as a seasoned professional in Leicester's number 10 jersey, going close to a first-half equaliser and generally impressing. Despite the disappointing result, it was a promising start to his Foxes career.
Boot up the backside: Sloppy Sanchez
Marcus Rashford had a difficult day, but he can perhaps be forgiven considering his short pre-season and a lack of service. Sanchez cannot really claim to have the same excuse, however, given he did not play at the World Cup. The Chilean's first touch was often poor and his final pass was not much better.
Key Opta stats:
1 - Luke Shaw's goal was his first for Manchester United, on what is his 67th appearance for the club in all competitions. Rewarded. pic.twitter.com/ZWjBu5M9n0— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 10, 2018
- Manchester United have won on the opening day in each of their last four seasons, their joint-longest run in the Premier League (also four in a row between 2000-01 and 2003-04).
- Leicester City are winless in their last 16 away top-flight matches on the opening day of the season (D8 L8) since a 3-2 win at Aston Villa in August 1933.
- Jose Mourinho is unbeaten in all 18 of his opening league matches of a season as a manager (W11 D7), winning nine of his 10 in the Premier League (D1).
- Paul Pogba has scored in 11 Premier League games and ended on the winning side in all of them – a record he shares with former Liverpool player Ryan Babel.
- Luke Shaw registered his first senior goal in his 134th appearance in all competitions (67 games each for Southampton and Manchester United).
- Leicester’s Jamie Vardy has now ended on the losing side in four of the last five Premier League matches in which he’s found the net (W1).