Goals from Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw secured Manchester United an underwhelming 2-1 victory over Leicester City in the opening game of the 2018-19 Premier League season.
United went into the campaign on the back of a tumultuous pre-season that was dominated by discontent and a lack of signings, leading to Jose Mourinho making veiled digs at the club's hierarchy and, while they secured all three points at home, the team's display was hardly an emphatic response.
Initially all looked rosy at Old Trafford, as United's encouraging start saw them go ahead through captain Pogba, but thereafter Leicester were the controlling force in the first period.
The only thing missing from Leicester's display was a killer instinct in the final third before Jamie Vardy's second-half introduction, though his stoppage-time effort was too little, too late, as Shaw's first senior goal seven minutes from time proved decisive in the final reckoning.
United stroked the ball around confidently during the early exchanges and that poise was personified by Pogba when he placed a third-minute penalty into the top-right corner after Daniel Amartey was adjudged to have handled Alexis Sanchez's deflected shot.
The early confidence soon dissipated, however, and Leicester were unlucky to go in at half-time trailing, with impressive debutant James Maddison drawing a marvellous save from David de Gea in the 29th minute.
The hosts improved after the break, looking a little more convincing in possession and preventing Leicester from crafting clear-cut chances.
Shaw finally doubled their advantage when he capitalised on his own heavy touch to squeeze a finish into the bottom-right corner and, while Vardy nodded in from close range at the end after Ricardo Pereira's cross came back off the post, the Red Devils just about did enough.
Thanks for joining our commentary this evening. Until next time, goodbye.
It was not a perfect performance from United by any means, but Jose Mourinho will be pleased to get off the mark with a win. Claude Puel will be satisfied with the effort of his players, although they lacked a clinical edge at times in the final third. There's plenty of room for improvement from both sides.
Manchester United begin the season with a victory thanks to goals from Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw. Jamie Vardy made the last couple of minutes interesting with a late strike, but the Red Devils held their nerve to secure the three points.
Full-time: Manchester United 2-1 Leicester
Well, we had some fun at the end there! United win without being at all free-flowing – we’ve heard that before – and will doubtless be glad just to have got that out of the way. Leicester, neat and watchable throughout, deserved a point from that although will wish they had created more given the possession you had. In the end, it’s Manchester United who are up and running!
90+5 min: It comes in just beyond Schmeichel and somebody, I couldn’t tell who, heads it two yards wide!
90+5 min: Leicester have a corner and up comes Schmeichel ...
Goal! Manchester United 2-1 Leicester (Vardy 90+2 min)
He does score now, though. It’s another Ricardo cross, left by De Gea and Bailly. The ball pings off the post, strikes Vardy, who is following in at point-blank range, and the net ripples. Surely they can’t ...
90+1 min: And Vardy should score in the first of them. Totally unmarked, he volleys a Ricardo delivery well over from 10 yards. Could and should have made it interesting.
90+1 min: We will enjoy four further minutes of this.
89 min: Mata crosses beyond Lukaku, who was ready to meet the delivery with a back-post header. I think United will be happy with two.
87 min: This is the sort of game United might go on and win 4-0 in the last few minutes. I did say “might”.
85 min: Pogba was replaced by Fellaini straight after the goal, by the way.
Goal! Manchester United 2-0 Leicester (Shaw 83)
It’s the first goal of Shaw’s career! Well! Mata dinks a ball across to Shaw, who has run clear of his man. He seems to have miscontrolled, the ball stays within his grasp and he manages to hook it across Schmeichel and into the far corner! The celebrations, from Mouinho too, are long and exuberant. Game over.
82 min: “Remember City & United fans used to argue about whether Iheanacho or Rashford was the better player?” writes Niall Mullen. “At the moment both of them really look like they need to learn the underrated art of banging it in the goal again.”
80 min: One last roll for Leicester. Iborra comes on for Adrien Silva in midfield.
78 min: How does Lukaku not score there?! Sanchez does well this time and squares to a completely unmarked Lukaku 10 yards out, and it’s going to be two-zero ... but Schmeichel manages to channel his father and deflect his shot just over with a leg! Fine goalkeeping but that should have been game over. It’s United’s first clear chance since the penalty.
76 min: Close for Leicester though! Vardy barges Shaw off the ball – legally, despite the home protestations – near the right byline, has acres of space and whips a low ball in. Gray meets it on the run and jabs towards goal, but De Gea is down smartly to clutch to his right. That could have been 1-1, it’s the best thing they’ve done all half. Now Fred, who grew into his debut I’d say, is replaced by Scott McTominay.
75 min: This has become a really scrappy, error-strewn second half in which neither side can really put a thing together.
73 min: Alexis Sanchez is slowing up, isn’t he. It’s understandable, he’s 30 later this year and must be absolutely knackered given the career he’s had. But he just can’t quite get away from his man here when he goes on a run – he knows it too, and as a result is trying early balls that rarely come off.
71 min: Slow pace at the moment. And in losing Maddison, Leicester have lost their best knotter-together of attacking moves.
69 min: Adrien Silva is left in a heap near the centre circle by Pereira, who is promptly booked.
67 min: Off comes Rashford, livelier in this half with more space available but still fairly quiet, and here’s Lukaku. That might help United hold the ball in Leicester’s half as we go on.
65 min: Chance for Mata, whose sidefooted effort from 18 yards is deflected wide – off an arm actually – but a goal kick is given. It came about from a dazzling first-time ball from Pogba, which bypassed the Leicester midfield and gave Sanchez the chance to tee the Spaniard up.
63 min: It’s two subs in fact. Amartey is off, Ghezzal on – so Peter Oh gets his wish. Maddison, quieter this half, is replaced by Vardy. Perhaps Leicester will go a little more direct now.
62 min: Bailly, not for the first time, defends superbly in getting across and preventing Iheanacho – who has scored here for Manchester City – from getting onto a long pass. Leicester are readying a sub ...
59 min: Chilwell, impressive today, sees a cross clawed away by De Gea. But Leicester just lack that cutting edge ...
56 min: United sweep forward and Darmian drills one low to Schmeichel, who has to gather at the second attempt. This half is certainly being played more in Leicester territory than the first.
54 min: Sanchez concludes a scrappy spell with an aimless cross that Schmeichel takes. I wonder if we’ll see Vardy soon for Leicester. In the meantime Fred, who’s having a niggly couple of minutes, is booked for an earlier foul on Maddison.
51 min: Amartey is booked for felling Sanchez, who’d seized on a stray Morgan pass. Probably a sensible foul although Sanchez wasn’t far beyond halfway.
50 min ... which is wasted, Schmeichel claiming unopposed.
49 min: But now we’re back where we were, Leicester popping it about without picking United open. You do get the impression one good pass would turn them round on the counter. United try to do just that and Rashford wins a corner from Gray ...
47 min: A mistake from Maguire lets Rashford get a run down the right, but his low centre is cut out by Amartey. United have started the half fairly well.
Peeeep! We're back underway!
Can Leicester turn their possession into an equaliser? Will United pick them off on the break? Read on!
Half-time: Manchester United 1-0 Leicester
What a start it was by United, winning a penalty after little more than a minute and Pogba converting it with glee. Leicester have largely controlled matters since then, only really creating once chance through Maddison though, and United have looked a bit more dangerous towards the end of the half. Still much more in this one – see you shortly for the second half.
44 min: A deep right-sided free-kick from Maddison is headed away by Rashford and United’s lead should be intact at the break.
41 min: Fred pings a lovely crossfield ball to Shaw, who knocks inside to Mata, who then plays the marauding full-back in. It’s on Shaw’s right foot and a fairly easy save for Schmeichel, but that was an encouraging move all round by United.
40 min: A bit better there, though, as Pogba plays a smart give-and-go with Pereira and then fires an optimistic effort that Schmeichel claims. United are putting a few passes together now, at last.
38 min: Sanchez has a chance to run at Leicester down the left but is dispossessed dispiritingly easily as he waits for Shaw to overlap. United have offered next to nothing in attack apart from the goal.
36 min: Iheanacho almost wriggles clear from Lindelof for a one-on-one with De Gea, but the defender just about does enough and then Iheanacho can’t *quite* get up in time to salvage the loose ball. It came from a wonderful first-time touch round the defence from Gray.
35 min: United have been loose and sloppy for a good 20 minutes or so now. Leicester are controlling this, without creating a lot bar the Maddison shot.
32 min: Maddison, who loves a free-kick, sizes one up from a central position 30 yards out. It’s whipped and well struck, but hits a defender just beyond the wall.
31 min: ... nothing much happens. But Leicester do win a third consecutive flag kick, also cleared, and they are really playing rather well at the moment.
29 min: Nearly 1-1! Maddison finds space in the box, takes a pass from the right and sees a 12-yard angled shot superbly saved by De Gea. Iheanacho can’t make anything of it and a resulting corner comes to nothing. But the pressure is kept up and Ricardo drills in a 30-yarder that Pogba deflects over for another flag kick. From which ...
27 min: Leicester win a corner after a slick move, orchestrated largely by the confident Maddison. He’ll take the flag kick, inswung from the left. It’s another decent delivery and another brave defensive header from ... I think it was Bailly this time.
25 min: Ndidi tries to manufacture space for a shot but Pereira, I think it was, makes sure he scuffs it. We’re in “next goal very important” territory I’d say, although United haven’t exactly been on the ropes.
22 min: Fred has been a bit mixed in possession so far and gets a bit lucky when he wins a free-kick after some loose control. We have a scrappy phase at the moment. But I think Mourinho would be delighted simply to win this one.
20 min: Now a better spell of United possession, which is halted after Ricardo takes a knock on the head. He seems OK and the ball is kicked back to Schmeichel, sportingly.
18 min: United can’t really keep hold of the ball at the moment. Leicester look bright down that left side, United’s right, and have certainly recovered well from such an early setback.
15 min: Gray does wonderfully to lose Darmian and Bailly stabs his low cross away at the near post, Ndidi rifling the loose ball low at De Gea from 25 yards. Leicester come again and Iheanacho flashes one just wide from an angle, although he’s flagged offside. Leicester are seeing a lot of the ball now, United seemingly content to wait for the counter.
13 min: Chilwell goes on a 60-yard run towards the area and is eventually faced with Bailly, who wins the ball ever so cleanly with a textbook sliding challenge. Love those.
11 min: This time Maddison delivers and it’s a good one, but Pogba clears with no Leicester player inside the six-yard box to attack it.
10 min: Leicester seem to have settled and Gray is barged over by Darmian in an even better position ...
9 min: United playing in black shorts at Old Trafford is not a sight that looks at all right. That’s the negative for them so far.
7 min: Fred concedes a soft foul on Maddison in a good left-sided position for Leicester, who had their first proper spell of possession prior to that. Chilwell delivers the set-piece ... but it’s headed away well.
4 min: Schmeichel is out of his area quickly to boot a long ball away from Sanchez. The home side’s tails are up.
Goal! Manchester United 1-0 Leicester (Pogba 3 pen)
No mistakes from the captain. Into the top corner of Schmeichel’s left side, and United have the dream start before Leicester get a meaningful touch of the ball!
Penalty to Manchester United!
It’s come 75 seconds into the season! Sanchez shoots and it’s blocked by Morgan ... the ball pings up and hits the arm of Amartey, who had time to pull it away, and Marriner points to the spot!
Peeeeeeep! Leicester, right to left, start the season off!
Here we go ...
The players are emerging from the tunnel ... which means the new top-flight season is moments away! Old Trafford is pulsating. Well, not quite, but there’s applause and some chanting. It’s something!
Breaking from the United theme for a sec – interested to see whatIheanacho can do tonight for Leicester. He ended last season really well and there’s a big talent waiting to get out, I reckon. I also picked him for my fantasy team so he’ll feel some extra pressure out there.
United fans ... is this really, as I’ve seen in various quarters, the most underwhelmed you’ve felt on the eve of a season? I’d like to know – and would particularly like to hear from anyone who has a more positive take, too. The email and Twitter addresses are above.
Mourinho speaks ... and his first comment is a moan about the length of the journey from the team hotel. Then:
“I don’t want to speak with you about the season, I want to speak about the match. We are going to try and do everything to do well, to win, and to go into next week with good spirit.”
On Pogba as captain:
“Last season he was captain a few times, the captain is Valencia, he is not here and Paul is one of the options. Third season at the club, made in the academy, understands the culture of the club and a good example today of putting himself forward and trying to help the team.”
Here are the men who will enhance your evening, ruin your evening, or keep your evening more or less the same:
Man Utd: De Gea, Darmian, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw, Fred, Andreas Pereira, Pogba, Mata, Rashford, Sanchez. Subs: Lukaku, Martial, Smalling, Grant, Young, Fellaini, McTominay.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Amartey, Morgan, Maguire, Chilwell, Ndidi, Adrien Silva, Ricardo Pereira, Maddison, Gray, Iheanacho. Subs:Evans, Vardy, Albrighton, Ward, Iborra, Fuchs, Ghezzal.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Paul Pogba captains United – just 26 days since scoring in the World Cup final. Fred gets a debut; Luke Shaw gets a start! Lukaku is on the bench, as expected.
Leicester give two debuts – to Ricardo Pereira and James Maddison. Jamie Vardy is on the bench!
The Premier League/Division One/EeePeeEll is back among us! Are you ready? You’re going to have to be, because this is it until May now and fortunately we start with a nice quiet one. What on earth could go wrong at Old Trafford this season?