Wigan, United Kingdom | AFP |
Jose Mourinho’s first game as manager of Manchester United ended in a short trip and comfortable 2-0 victory over newly-promoted Championship side Wigan Athletic at their DW Stadium on Saturday.
Goals early in the second half from Will Keane and Andreas Pereira secured victory for United who parted company with former manager Louis van Gaal after winning the FA Cup on their last competitive outing two months ago.
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It was a weakened United line-up at the disposal of their new manager given that 14 players who represented their countries in the European Championships and Copa America this summer were unavailable and have yet to return to training.
Nevertheless, it is a sign of the strength in depth that Mourinho will have at his call this season that the starting line-up he selected still boasted summer signings Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, bought for a total of nearly £60 million (71.7 million euros), and England left-back Luke Shaw, returning after 10 months out of action with a broken leg.
The game, arranged at short notice to give Mournho extra competition prior to his team leaving for a tour of China on Tuesday, was predictably low-key.
But it still represented a winning start to his reign as United manager as the 5,500 United supporters in attendance welcomed him by chanting his name within the opening minute.
The victory will doubtless have pleased their manager even if the opening goal was a gift from veteran Wigan goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen who made an appalling clearance directly to Juan Mata who squared for Keane to convert after 48 minutes.
Ten minutes later, United doubled their advantage with a goal that clearly owed much to the work put in by Mourinho in his first week on the training ground with his new charges.
A well-worked free-kick saw Mata pick out Ander Herrera in the Wigan penalty area and, after his shot was blocked, Brazilian Pereira was handed the simple opportunity to sweep the ball in from a dozen yards.
Otherwise, the game was a typical pre-season affair, with Mourinho making seven half-time substitutions, and swapping all 11 players before the end of the 90 minutes.
Interestingly, Ivory Coast defender Bailly, a new arrival from Villarreal, played longer than any other outfield player, seeing out 82 minutes of the contest, as Mourinho presumably attempts to acclimatise him to the English game.
But the United manager will nevertheless have gained satisfaction, and information, from the game with the new playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the first Armenian to play in the Premier League, particularly bright in the ppening exchanges.
His neat lay-off after eight minutes should have been converted by Memphis Depay only for the Dutchman to see his shot blocked and the same United forward was guilty of an even more glaring miss halfway through the opening period when he missed the target at the far post after more good approach play from Mkhitaryan.
Indeed, it was easy to see how Mkhitaryan led the Bundesliga in assists with Borussia Dortmund last season and he might have capped his first United outing with a goal just before the interval but volleyed over from a Jesse Lingard cross.
The 45-minute performance of Shaw will also have pleased his new manager as the left-back showed no ill effects from the horrific double broken leg he suffered early last season in a Champions League tie at PSV Eindhoven.
Mourinho will now welcome back the remaining 14 international players to Old Trafford this week ahead of Tuesday’s departure to China where his team plays Dortmund in Shanghai and a Manchester derby meeting with City in Beijing.
However, while a number of those players, including England internationals Chris Smalling, Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford, will travel with the squad, Mourinho has indicated they will not play in the two fixtures.
Veteran newcomer Zlatan Ibrahimovic may remain in Manchester to concentrate on his fitness.