First trophy of the season; Devils vs Foxes out for it.
11:00 GMT – It’s on. Today, a mere week before the league kicks off, the 2016/17 season will officially start in England. As usual: it will open with a Community Shield clash between the 2015/16 champions and 2015/16 FA Cup winners.
11:30 – Leicester vs Manchester United: literally not a single person in the world has predicted these two to meet each other at Wembley today. The Foxes came off as the biggest shock in the history of British football by upsetting 5000-1 odds and beating everyone else to the title despite finishing 17th a year before. According to bookies, this event was about ten times less likely than Simon Cowell being appointed as UK’s Prime Minister or Andy Murray naming his first born son Novak. A season to remember.
12:00 – As of Red Devils: under Louis van Gaal, the team more or less continued the sub-par performances it unleashed shortly after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. Having spent £120 million on new players before the 2015/16 kickoff, LVG’s group of players picked up four league points less than in the 14/15 campaign, crashed out of the Champions League in group stages, suffered December defeats to Bournemouth, Norwich and Stoke – and finally got utterly outplayed in Europa League against Liverpool. A season to forget.
12:30 – The only consolation prize for van Gaal, the only little bit of relief, was the FA Cup. In many ways, all the luck MU have been missing in other competitions, has transferred itself to this particular trophy race. A last-gasp penalty by Rooney has put them past League One weaklings Sheffield United in the Round 3; a saved penalty by de Gea and another, last-gasp Martial goal to take out Everton in the semi-final. Even against Crystal Palace in the final, Red Devils were trailing and needed a lightspeed equaliser to take the battle to the extra time.
13:00 – However, let’s not forget: that MU was vastly different from the current MU. Obsessed with possession, inept in front of the opposition’s goal, plagued by the injuries, forced to play youngsters like Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Timothy Fosu-Mensah or Cameron Borthwick-Jackson… In three months, they’ve upgraded their manager, nurtured most of their players to the full fitness and brought Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimović to Old Trafford. With Paul Pogba’s arrival still looming on the horizon, this side seems to have many more goals in it than the one we were forced to put up with this spring.
Old photos become relevant again.
13:30 – Even though it’s Leicester who will be proudly wearing the champions’ crown this year, the differences between two clubs have been once again underlined by their transfer activity. So far, The Foxes have signed five new players and spent a little over £40 million on them. At the same time, MU paid over £35 million for Mkhitaryan and three million less for Eric Bailly. If (when?) the long-awaited Pogba move goes through, the total amount of cash spent by LCFC this summer won’t even be the quarter of the little fortune tossed out there by the Glazers. And that’s in a league known for a fair distribution of wealth among the clubs…
14:00 – A couple of very different quotes from two managers prior to today’s game: “This is not a friendly. We will give the maximum and also Manchester United will too. Both teams want to win it.” – Claudio Ranieri; “We can make six substitutions instead of three, so that gives me the chance to give minutes to people.” – José Mourinho. Seems obvious which one of those two treats this clash more seriously.
14:30 – Some deceptive numbers for all stat lovers: last season, Manchester United conceded the least goals of all 20 Premier League teams (35, same as Tottenham) and kept the most clean sheets (18); Leicester were #2 best-defending team (36 goals conceded, joint-second with Arsenal) and kept 15 clean sheets. HOWEVER – in the last six games between those two clubs, there were 22 goals scored (3.67 goals per game) and only one clean sheet involved (back in April 2004, when United took out Foxes 1-0 thanks to Gary Neville’s goal).
Man Utd's XI vs Leicester: de Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw; Carrick, Fellaini; Lingard, Rooney, Martial; Ibrahimović #LEIMUN
— Shot on Goal (@shotongoalx) August 7, 2016
15:15 – No debutantes picked by Claudio Ranieri. Leicester all up armed with their usual suspect – the least rotated starting eleven in 2015/16 Premier League. At the same time, Mourinho is banking his hopes on Carrick and Fellaini ahead of Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera; also, Jesse Lingard gets a not ahead of big-name Mkhitaryan.
15:30 – …but who really cares about the squad analysis in the light of the most recent MU statement? After weeks of keeping us on our toes, they’ve just revealed that Paul Pogba, the £120 million man, will undergo a medical tests at United next week. In just 15 minutes, the tweet with a #Pogback hashtag has accumulated over 34.000 retweets and over 16.000 likes.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 7, 2016
15:45 – With only a week away from Premier League kickoff, United are adding some extra quality to their midfield already packed with Carrick, Schneiderlin, Herrera and Fellaini. This probably means the end of Red Devils’ career for the Basque playmaker, whose position at Old Trafford has never been particularly strong anyway.
15:55 – Let’s not forget, though: last time this year, Mourinho went to Wembley as Premier League champion – and lost 0-1 to Arsenal in what’s later turned out to be an overture to the worst season in his managerial career. Ironically enough, despite being in a severe slump, Chelsea would still inflict two league defeats on Arsenal later on. SInce The Special One couldn’t really keep the early crisis under control last year – he’d better be on the winning side today…
16:03 – A slightly delayed kick-off, but here they go! Eric Bailly already misplacing a rather audacious sideways pass to Antonio Valencia.
16:07 – Vardy almost goes all the way by nutmegging Bailly but the angle is to narrow and other United defenders arrive just in time to mop it up.
16:12 – Martial up to his old trick down the left wing, he escapes Mahrez but Simpson blocks him off just well enough to not let the shot do any harm.
16:17 – Schmeichel saves an awkward, but surprisingly dangerous half-volley from Fellaini. Mishandles it on the way, but collects the ball before Martial can reach it.
16:21 -Vardy feeds Okazaki who chips a surprising shot that takes a deflection and barely, barely misses the bottom corner of de Gea’s goal. Seconds later, the Japanese forward gets on the end of a corner ball and heads it off the crossbar.
16:28 – This time, Bailly gets the better of Vardy, clearing his run with a inch-perfect tackle. Leicester still looking more threatening out there, though.
16:34 – 1-0! Jesse Lingard scores!! He picks up the ball in the middle of the pitch, skips past all challenges, leaves King, Drinkwater, Simpson and Morgan all behind him and blasts the ball into the net. Pretty fabulous goal to lighten up otherwise rather lethargic first half.
16:39 – Andy King tries to head in a near-post corner but his shot goes over the bar.
16:49 – Half-time whistle is blown. Mkitaryan on the stands, Zlatan completely invisible, Rooney messing up too many passes. If it wasn’t for a superb Lingard’s goal, this first half would be remembered as one of the most boring 45 minutes in football’s history.
16:55 – With four shots apiece, four Leicester corners to United’s zero, more aerials (9-7) and tackles (7-6) won by Foxes and only 80% passing accuracy from United – Mourinho should definitely be unhappy about his team’s performance. However, he’s 1-0 ahead – and that’s the lead he’s pretty good at holding onto.
17:00 – With that 1st half goal, Jesse Lingard has copied Eric Cantona’s feat from 20 years ago: scoring in the FA Cup final and subsequent Community Shield game.
17:06 – Ahmed Musa is on for Okazaki; Demarai Gray replaces Albrighton. All-out attack now?
17:09 – Bailly dominates one more tackle, then intercepts the ball perfectly. If anyone has been a standout in this snoozefest so far – it’s undoubtedly him.
17:11 – Mahrez breaks into United’s box again following Luke Shaw’s missed interception. However, his backwards pass to Musa is inaccurate and it’s all mopped up.
17:12 – 1-1! Jamie Vardy! Musa makes the run down the left, misses the pass, Fellaini picks it up and decides to play it safe. He makes an awkward backpass, Vardy chases after that loose ball, gets ahead of David de Gea, goes around him and levels the score into the open net!
17:16 – It’s heating up at Wembley. King gets booked for fouling Lingard; then, Ibrahimović nearly collects a loose ball in Leicester’s penalty area but is promptly stopped by Morgan.
17:22 – Lingard looks hurt out there, while Ranieri replaces Andy King with Nampalys Mendy and Danny Simpson with Luis Hernández. The goalscorer for MU eventually goes off, replaced by Juan Mata.
17:26 – Mourinho with some last-minute instructions for Marcus Rashford. It seems that Ibrahimović will be subbed off without contributing absolutely anything to this game.
17:29 – Martial combines well with Fellaini who gives it back to Wayne Rooney at the edge of the box. The shot is exactly of the same quality as Wazza’s performance: terrible.
17:32 – Zlatan’s stats after 70 minutes: 0 shots, 0 dribbles, 1 aerial duel won, 27 touches made, 17 passes completed. 35 years old. Looking more like 70.
17:36 – Rashford’s left-wing run stopped by Danny Drinkwater. Seconds later, Bailly makes a rash challenge by jumping on Mendy’s back – he also loses a shoe while doing that.
17:39 – Another slapstick-like moment in Leicester’s penalty area. Two Foxes’ defenders head the ball back to Schmeichel, Rooney and Ibrahimović both chase it down but they manage to block each other and Drinkwater eventually clears the ball.
17:43 – 2-1! A floating cross from Antonio Valencia finds Ibrahimović who outjumps Morgan, heads it rather weakly but precisely and finds the net off the post of Schmeichel’s goal. Brilliant – too bad he was offside.
17:50 – Ulloa to the rescue. With just added time left on the clock, Ranieri reaches for the Argentinian. In the meantime, Mourinho finally prepares to bring Mkhitaryan in.
17:51 – More ludicrous punditry, this time from ex-Liverpool man, Steve McManaman: “His left foot is offside, but you can’t argue he’s taken up a great position”. Yeah. Not.
17:52 – Kasper Schmeichel goes forward! But the ball bounces loose after Drinkwater’s desperado strike. Seconds later, De Gea collects the ball to end a monumental mess right in front of his goal line.
17:55 – Last-second penalty claim for Leicester is waved off by Craig Pawson. United players manage to clear the ball and the game end with a 2-1 result for United. For the first time in history, reigning league champions have lost 3 consecutive Community Shield matches.
18:00 – It’s all over. An offside goal seals first Mourinho’s trophy at Manchester United. Shots: 10-9 for Leicester. Corners: 7-2 for Leicester. Dribbles won: 9-8 for Leicester. Aerials won: 16-15 for United. Tackles won: 17-10 for United. Overall: a close contest.
18:05 – Meanwhile, on social media: the #Pogback tweet has already reached over 70.000 retweets and over 36.000 likes.
Imagine celebrating the fact that you sold a player for £800,000, waited a few years, and then bought him back for £100,000,000. #Pogback
— dom ☹️ (@dombcafc) August 7, 2016
18:16 – While Red Devils are lifting their first (and not last?) 2016/17 trophy, the media attention focuses on Juan Mata, who had an angry outburst on the sidelines after being substituted off by Mourinho in the added time. Another chapter of their long-lasting beef?
18:30 – Winner Mourinho explains subbing of the half-time sub Mata: “Juan played well. He gave me exactly what I need. I have to take the smallest player off because the game will end in long balls.” He also said a word or two about Pogba: “Finally we have him. He comes to a winning side. It is amazing such a good player is with us.”
19:00 – Eric Bailly has been elected BT Sport Man of the Match. And deservedly so: he’s won 2 headers, 1 tackle, made 3 interceptions and 4 clearances and dealt with Vardy competently.
19:10 – And that’s it for now! A somewhat lucky start for United who were very far from outplaying Leicester but scored through Lingard’s individual skill and Zlatan’s offside header. Let’s hope there won’t be any more 16/17 trophies decided through the linesmen mistakes. Paul Pogba? The lad will have a lot things to fix in that MUFC’s midfield…