Manchester United’s new striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s struck late to ensure Jose Mourinho’s reign got off to a winning start as the FA Cup holders beat champions Leicester City 2-1 in the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday.
Ibrahimovic leapt above Foxes captain Wes Morgan in the 83rd minute to head Antonio Valencia’s cross beyond goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, the Swede marking his official debut with a decisive contribution and securing United a record 21st Shield.
Leicester’s England forward Jamie Vardy had equalised early in the second half after capitalising on a hideous lapse from Marouane Fellaini following Jesse Lingard’s superb solo opener for United just past the half-hour mark.
“It’s an important victory but we have lots of work to do,” Mourinho told BT Sport after the traditional curtain-raiser to the English season. “I wouldn’t be ambitious if I said it was a fantastic performance. It wasn’t.
“It’s always important to start with a trophy.”
United, who confirmed in an official statement before the match that Juventus have given midfielder Paul Pogba permission to have a medical with the club, started brightly, with Wayne Rooney and Ibrahimovic forming a lively forward pairing.
“It feels good,” Ibrahimovic told BT Sport. “The first official game, we play for a trophy and we win.
“This is my 31st trophy. I’m super happy,” added the former Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona and Paris St Germain striker. “Hopefully, I can win much more than this.”
Another of United’s new signings, Eric Bailly, made an encouraging start, although he was regularly tested by Vardy.
Leicester threatened on the break, and Vardy’s fine interplay with Shinji Okazaki saw the latter send a lofted shot just wide of David De Gea’s goal in the 18th minute.
Okazaki was then denied by the crossbar a minute later when he met Marc Albrighton’s corner with a powerful header as the Premier League champions threatend United’s goal.
However, it was Lingard, whose sublime volley settled the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace in May, who opened the scoring when he slalomed past a quartet of attempted challenges before firing a low shot beyond Schmeichel.
“I thought the minimum we deserved was penalties but when you play against great champions, this can happen,” said Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri.
The pace and movement of Leicester’s halftime substitute Ahmed Musa unsettled United and Vardy soon equalised, latching on to a blind back pass from Fellaini before rounding De Gea and finishing into an empty net in the 52nd minute.
Schmeichel was forced out of his area to snuff out a pair of United attacks as Mourinho’s side pushed for a winner, while Musa missed the chance to become an instant hero at his new club when he sent an effort onto the roof of the net.
Ultimately, it was former Sweden striker Ibrahimovic who made the difference. Having vowed to win a trophy in his first match with United, he duly did so by rising to meet Valencia’s cross and deliver the first silverware of the Mourinho era.
(All images sourced from Reuters)