Here are the talking points from the 2018/19 Premier League opener.
CAPTAIN POGBA STEPS UP
The season wasn’t even two minutes old, but it felt like a seminal moment.
A pulsating start from United yielded an alarmingly idiotic handball from Daniel Amartey and the Red Devils had the chance to start the new campaign on the front foot.
Paul Pogba, captain for the night and perhaps in the long term, stutter-stepped his way up to the ball rather ponderously, but the resultant kick was emphatic. High beyond the dive of Kasper Schmeichel and soaring into the roof of the net. And just like that, United also had lift-off.
Old Trafford seemed noisier than it had been in a while. And although they didn’t have things all their own way as a talented Leicester side settled into the game and tested their illustrious hosts, Jose Mourinho’s side weathered the storm.
Pogba, surprisingly, started. And with the armband strapped on, after much speculation over his Old Trafford future in recent weeks, eyes were on him more than ever.
He showed flashes of class and style, but the petulance that can so often dominate his performances also reared its head. Generally though this was a performance to remember rather than forget.
He needs to have a big season, both personally and for United to be successful. This was a pretty good start.
BAILLY CAN BE WORLD CLASS IF HE STAYS FIT
United didn’t bring in the centre-back Mourinho desperately craved but on the face of it, it’s not the biggest issue for the boss – certainly if (and it’s a massive ‘if’) Eric Bailly can keep himself on the field.
The Ivorian was brought in from Villarreal three seasons ago to much fanfare. He impressed in his debut campaign – a refreshing tower of strength and a player who relished the physical battle. He made 38 appearances in all competitions and helped deliver his new club the League Cup and a first-ever Europa League crown.
Then, he fell apart, completing only 18 matches in 2017/18 due to an ankle injury.
But against Leicester and in the face of a real battle after the Foxes fought their way back from going down to Pogba’s early penalty, a player often accused of being brittle was a totem of strength, adequately dealing with the speed and guile of Kelechi Iheanacho.
The 24-year-old registered two tackles and an interception, and his six clearances was second only to centre-back partner Victor Lindelof.
His 95.8 per cent pass accuracy was also the best of any player in the starting 22.
His one flaw was perhaps reacting slowly to the cross that came in leading to Vardy’s late consolation.
It is too early to tell if Bailly is truly back, but this certainly bodes well.
FOXES SHOW FIGHT
It was the worst possible start for Claude Puel and his players. And after going a goal down and the Old Trafford crowd surprisingly raucous, Leicester could have lost their nerve.
But the famous Theatre of Dreams is not quite as fearsome a place as it used to be for away teams and after weathering the storm, the away side settled and showed plenty of promise – David De Gea called upon to pull off a tremendous stop to deny James Maddison.
With Demarai Gray roasting Matteo Darmian regularly and new signing Maddison – the Championship’s best player last term – making the step up to the top level with consummate ease, Puel will have taken plenty of positives from this tough opening fixture.
He has kept hold of his best player in Harry Maguire, tied fleet-footed forward Vardy down to a new deal and has added depth to an already talented squad.
Apart from a tricky date with Liverpool early next month, Leicester have a pretty kind run of seven fixtures now coming up.
After a bolshy beginning here and quality added over the summer, they will be confident of surpassing last term’s ninth-placed finish.
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