Paul Pogba Penalty Leads Manchester United Past Leicester City in Season Opener

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IAugust 10, 2018

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10:  Paul Pogba of Manchester United (hidden) celebrates with team mates after scoring his team's first goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford on August 10, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Manchester United kicked off the 2018/19 Premier League season with a 2-1 win over Leicester City at Old Trafford on Friday.

Manager Jose Mourinho surprisingly named Paul Pogba as his captain for the match, and the France international opened the scoring from the penalty spot after just three minutes.   

Leicester responded well to the early setback and gave a good account of themselves. However, they struggled to create clear-cut chances and could not find an equaliser.

United made the Foxes pay as left-back Luke Shaw sealed the victory on 83 minutes. The defender raced into the penalty area, got a touch on a pass from Juan Mata and managed to hook the ball past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and into the far corner.

Leicester did manage to pull one back in stoppage time. Substitute Jamie Vardy netted from close range after Ricardo Pereira's cross had hit the post, but it was only a consolation for the Foxes.


Pogba Looks Ready to Lead the Manchester United Charge

Mourinho raised eyebrows ahead of kick-off when he handed Pogba the armband in the absence of injured club captain Antonio Valencia.

Pogba had been linked with a move away from the Red Devils in the summer. According to Mundo Deportivo (h/t Daniel Matthews for MailOnline), the midfielder was offered to Barcelona, as he was reportedly unhappy working with Mourinho.

Sports journalist Mootaz Chehade explained why making Pogba captain was a good move by the United boss:

The Frenchman responded by opening the scoring for the hosts. He perhaps overelaborated with a stuttering run-up but confidently lifted the ball over Schmeichel.

The World Cup winner was also creative going forward. A defence-splitting pass in the second half allowed Alexis Sanchez to tee up Mata for a shot.

Rob Dawson at ESPN FC highlighted how impressive Pogba's display was:

It was a classy outing from the midfielder—far more like the commanding displays he showed in Russia 2018 with France than his showings for his club last season.

He's unlikely to keep the armband when Valencia returns, but if he can keep producing performances like this, he can provide the inspiration the Red Devils have been sorely lacking. 


Maddison Can Make Up for Mahrez Loss

Leicester lost one of their most important players over the summer as Riyad Mahrez departed for Manchester City.

However, Friday night's evidence suggested they have invested well, with James Maddison the pick of their new signings.

Leicester signed the 21-year-old from Norwich City. Squawka Football showed how he fared with the Canaries:

Manager Claude Puel clearly had no qualms about throwing him straight into his starting XI. Maddison acquitted himself well at Old Trafford, looked lively throughout and was one of Leicester's main attacking threats.

He forced goalkeeper David De Gea into a diving save on 29 minutes and may have made an impression on England manager Gareth Southgate, who was watching from the stands.


Marcus Rashford Risking Irrelevance After Poor Showing

Striker Marcus Rashford received a start ahead of Romelu Lukaku for Manchester United but failed to take his chance with a poor showing.

The England international looked to be struggling with injury early on, per Dawson:

Rashford had the pace to trouble the Leicester defence but too often made the wrong decision or failed to protect the ball.

He looked a little livelier after the break as the game began to open up but rarely threatened Schmeichel in the Leicester goal.

James Robson at the Manchester Evening News offered his view:

It was little surprise to see Rashford subbed off on 67 minutes, with Lukaku taking his place.

The Belgium international spurned a glorious chance for a goal after being put clean through by Sanchez. Schmeichel deflected his shot over the bar.

United did look more potent in attack with Lukaku and added a second late on as Shaw scored the first senior goal of his career.

Rashford received the No. 10 shirt before the start of the season but is well behind Lukaku in the pecking order at Old Trafford.

On this showing, he looked in need of a vast improvement if he is to have an impact this season.


What's Next

Manchester United's next outing is a trip to Falmer Stadium on Aug. 19 to play Brighton & Hove Albion. Leicester are in action a day earlier as they welcome Wolverhampton Wanderers to the King Power Stadium.                  


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