Jose Mourinho takes charge of his first competitive game as Manchester United this Sunday, as his new team face reigning Premier League champions Leicester City for the Community Shield. It’s the first time that United have contested the shield since they themselves won the league title in 2013, and represents two things for the Portuguese; a chance to win a small piece of silverware and give his players one last opportunity to impress ahead of the start of the league campaign.
With that in mind, here’s how we expect United to start at Wembley on Sunday:
Given that Chris Smalling was passed fit in Mourinho’s press conference on Friday, it makes sense for him to start alongside new boy Eric Bailly in defence, with the Portuguese seemingly preferring Antonio Valencia’s pace at right back over Matteo Darmian at this stage. David de Gea and Luke Shaw are automatic starts at this stage.
Wayne Rooney’s inevitable inclusion in the side shapes the rest of the team, with Mourinho having to employ a 4-3-3 in order to accommodate Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his club captain at the top end of the pitch. Michael Carrick will likely sit deeper and allow Ander Herrera to play a more advanced role, whilst Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan start out wide.
Mourinho himself has spoken of the importance of the game as a trophy and a last chance to improve his team’s fitness ahead of what could be a grueling schedule is games. United will be juggling both domestic and Europa League duties until December at least, and presumably further into the year unless they suffer a surprise early exit.
Speaking at his press conference, liveblogged by Republik of Mancunia, Mourinho had this to say when asked about the importance of Sunday’s game:
“Everything is important. If you could choose everything, you’d choose everything. Our pre-season was strange. It was a good pre-season for some players but for others it was not enough. The number of matches was not enough.
The match we did not play against Manchester City was really bad for us. The week of no work in China was really bad for us, so we need to train, we need to play, we need minutes for the players, we need to train against other teams like we did against Everton and Galatasaray. We need to train against other teams. But that is over. Now we have no chance to train against other teams. Now we have Leicester before the Premier League and it’s not a training session. It’s a game. I think especially for the players that were involved last season, it must have a meaning because to play in the Community Shield you have to be champions or you need to win the FA Cup, and they won the FA Cup. So I think we have to face it as a game.”