BOURNEMOUTH: Manchester United made a brilliant start to the Jose Mourinho era as goals from Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic sealed a 3-1 win in their Premier League opener at Bournemouth on Sunday.
Mourinho is desperate to restore his tarnished reputation after being sacked by Chelsea last season and the United manager enjoyed an encouraging return to the touchline in his first league match since a December defeat at Leicester City triggered his exit from Stamford Bridge.
In the absence of Paul Pogba, their world record signing, United eased to victory after Mata punished a horrible mistake by Bournemouth defender Simon Francis just before half-time and Rooney added the second after the interval.
That set the stage for the latest memorable moment in Ibrahimovic’s glittering career as the Swedish forward netted with a fine strike to mark his Premier League debut in the same goalscoring style he celebrated his maiden appearances in Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Champions League.
After a lackadaisical first half, United moved smoothly through the gears once Mata opened the scoring and, although Adam Smith got one back for Bournemouth, Mourinho will hope to build on the momentum from this result as he eyes a title challenge.
“I’m very happy. Bournemouth always start with great intensity but we kept our control,” Mourinho said.
“We weren’t surprised and then we started playing. In the second half we had a bit more confidence.”
Bournemouth were United’s opponents when they concluded a frustrating league campaign last season, but whereas the staid atmosphere at Old Trafford that day reflected the drab nature of Louis van Gaal’s reign, there was a whiff of revolution in the air on the genteel south coast as Mourinho’s reign got underway.
Mourinho has wasted little time stamping his authority on an underachieving squad and, although Pogba was serving a one-man ban incurred at Juventus last season, the United boss paraded new signings Ibrahimovic and Eric Bailly.
Ibrahimovic started as United’s central striker with Rooney behind him and the wide roles filled by Anthony Martial and Mata, who featured despite the Spaniard’s touchline spat with Mourinho when he was substituted having only just come on in last weekend’s Community Shield win over Leicester.
Mourinho’s men took 23 minutes to muster a shot and even then Martial’s effort from the left side of the penalty area flew well wide of Artur Boruc’s goal.
– Disastrous –
But United finally pieced together an incisive attack when Ander Herrera picked out Antonio Valencia and the right-back crossed to Mata, who set up Rooney for a low shot straight at Boruc.
United were gifted the breakthrough five minutes before half-time after a disastrous mistake by Francis.