Zlatan struggles despite a debut matchwinner? Rooney toils at number 10? It wasn't all negative for Manchester United on Sunday evening however.
They won the game after all, Jose Mourinho lifting the first of a possible multitude of trophies at England's most succesful club.
So what can we deduce about Mourinho's United as the dust settles on the 2016 Community Shield?
Mourinho must break Van Gaal’s habits
Jose Mourinho has a rather difficult task on his hands if he wants to rid his squad of the damaging tendencies of Van Gaal-holsim.
“It’s a difficult situation to change the dynamics - it would be easier for me to have 20 new players and start from zero,” Mourinho told the Manchester Evening News on Friday.
“After two years of work, there are things in their brains that are automatic. That’s difficult to change, but we are working hard and the players are giving everything to adapt.
“Step by step, my team is going to be my team.”
However, if this afternoon’s performance was anything to go by, Mourinho’s new team is still cowering under the iron fist of their deposed despot. Sure, the passes were sharper at times, penetrating and purposeful. Sure, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw thundered forwards on the outside while Jesse Lingard wreaked havoc within, but United often lacked the innate ability to break the lines or link play with an instinctive one-two.
Leicester, for the most part, were rather comfortable with their two banks of four with United’s two goals the result of individual quality as opposed to the consequence of the collective.
It’s understandable, really, after instinct and intuition was so brutally lobotomised under the maniacal Dutchman. Mourinho, then, has to go back to the basics first.
Rebellions, by their very nature, start within. And if Van Gaal was the autocratic slave-driver, then United needed a Spartacus. Step forward Jesse Lingard.
As reported by The Guardian upon the former manager’s sacking in May, United players were ordered not to shoot from outside the box. Lingard scored United’s only goal from 18+ yards in the whole of 2015. Van Gaal, in his first press conference, said “I do not want players to be intuitive.” No one in United’s timid squad was as intuitive, as spontaneous as Lingard last season.
He should not only survive then but thrive under the autonomy entrusted to him by Mourinho. A boyhood fan reared on ‘the United way’, Lingard starred in a free role against Leicester, drifting into central areas and driving past four Leicester players on his way to a second Wembley wondergoal in just three months. Subbed off with a knock midway through the second half, United lacked the same verve in the games closing stages.
"[Mourinho] has given the front four a lot more licence to change positions. He lets you play free,” said an elated Lingard, post-match as reported by the BBC.
The first United player to score in an FA Cup final and Community Shield in the same year since Eric Cantona two decades ago; Lingard’s future may be bright but his present is pretty shiny too.
Rooney and Ibra fail to combine
The promise of Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic combining in the red of Manchester United is enough to salivate the taste buds of even those fortunate enough to recall Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole in their treble-winning pomp. Both supreme number 9s with the vision, class and quality to star in the 10, Rooney and Ibrahimovic haven’t scored 655 club goals combined on the back of fortune alone.
Yet, despite the latter’s inevitable matchwinner, both struggled to impose themselves against the restrictions of Leicester’s wrap-around marking. Rooney, in particular, laboured throughout, wastefully giving away possession and lumbering ineffectually through the mass-populated central zone.
Ibrahimovic, too, failed to link the play adequately, his touch unusually erratic under constant pressure from Wes Morgan and Robert Huth, not to mention the hard-working Danny Drinkwater. In fact, only a dramatic late winner could overshadow a debut performance best described as disappointing. Fortunately, this is Zlatan Ibrahimovic we’re talking about.
"Zlatan will be more dangerous when we are more dominant and play closer to the box,” Mourinho told the BBC after the final whistle.
“He's not a fast player like Jamie Vardy, who can play 50 yards from the box. He needs the team to play and produce chances for him. We need to change this.”
Pressure on Smalling
It’s fair to say Chris Smalling hasn’t enjoyed the best summer of his life. Being party to one of the nation’s greatest all-time sporting embarrassments hardly elicits that holiday feeling after all. And, once he returns to first-team contention, he may find that his autumn forecast isn’t looking too sunny either.
Because Eric Bailly displayed all the tendencies of a typical Mourinho centre-half against Leicester. Like Kurt Zouma at Chelsea and Raphael Varane at Real Madrid, the 22-year-old possesses malleable raw potential; speed, power, athleticism.
One-on-one with Jamie Vardy in the 25th minute, Bailly stalled the rapid number nine, squared him up and won the ball with a perfectly timed slide tackle. Moments later, he cleared brilliantly under considerable pressure from Wes Morgan from the resulting corner. He can play, too, with composure and class, deceiving Vardy effortlessly to start an attack late on.
Like his English counterpart, however, Bailly is no stranger to naivety. His needless yellow card, picked up for a barge on Vardy in the second-half, hints at the recklessness that earned him nine yellows and a red in just 25 La Liga appearances for Villarreal last season. If there’s one man who can teach Bailly how to make the defensive dark arts a little more subtle, however, its Mourinho.
As the tabloid’s whirling carousel of chatter will have you reliably informed, Mourinho sold Juan Mata to Manchester United just half a season after his re-employment at Stamford Bridge. Therefore, his decision to replace the Spaniard, a substitute himself, in the 93rd minute would have had each and every hack reaching for his trusty bic.
Especially after a clearly distressed Mata, apparently restrained by the United coaches, appeared to publically and emotionally demand an explanation from his manager. If United fans are to question to man-management tactics of their new coach, especially in light of the ongoing Bastian Schweinsteiger saga, then they would be right to do so.
"I think he played very well. He gave me exactly what I needed,” Mourinho explained after the game to the BBC.
"The rules allow six changes, I had made five and I wanted to stop the game. I need to take off the smallest player because we are expecting a lot of long balls. He is the smallest one.
"We want to win. Everyone is happy in the end."
We’ll see about that.