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After a disastrous three years after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, new United manager Jose Mourinho took charge of his first game yesterday in pre-season friendly against Wigan Athletic. Will Keane and Andreas Pereira both got on the score sheet as United secured victory against the Championship club. Both Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan gave the supporters something to be excited about as they made their first appearance in a United jersey. Mkhitaryan was the stand-out player in the first half, despite missing one excellent chance, while Bailly grew in confidence as the game went on.
What would have pleased the United supporters the most was the presence of Left-back Luke Shaw,as he made a comeback for the club after 10 months out following a double fracture to his right leg. There were some high-profile absentees though, including United’s other new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the England trio of Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling and Marcus Rashford, plus Spain goalkeeper David De Gea, who are all resting after playing at Euro 2016. . Former United forward Nick Powell also made an appearance as he came on as a late substitute. Here are the three things we learnt from the game.
Ed Woodward would have been pleased to see how his two new signing performed in their first appearance for the club. Mkhitaryan in particular was very impressive as he was handed the number 10 role by Jose Mourinho. The midfielder was deployed behind striker James Wilson and was always willing to receive the ball. Everything United did well came through Mkhitaryan who was heavily involved in the build-up play and always keen to try and play it forward or cut it back into Wigan’s penalty area. With Rooney, Martial and Ibrahimovic missing from action, it’s difficult to predict how Mourinho will set up his front line but one thing is for sure, Mkhitaryan has the quality to bring back the flair in United’s play that went missing under Louis Van Gaal.
The fact that Luke Shaw returned after 305 days out with a double fracture on his right leg, was enough reason to get excited about, however the former Southampton player exceeded expectations with an energetic display. He was always willing to get forward, while staying solid when the opposition had the ball. He showed no signs of fear something extraordinary given how troublesome his two years at United have been. Mourinho was full of praises for the youngster after the match, pointing out that he was in a much better shape than what the Portuguese expected. It might still be some time before we see Shaw back in full flow but yesterday’s performance was definitely encouraging.
There are major doubts regarding the future of Juan Mata at Manchester United and it was not surprising to see the Spaniard being dropped from the starting against Wigan. However Mata responded with a brilliant second half display as within three minutes he charged down Jussi Jaaskelainen kick and laid the opening goal for Keane. Even after that he worked hard in creating opening for the team. Although not a favourite of Mourinho, the former Chelsea midfielder did make a good case for consideration for the upcoming season.