Zlatan Ibrahimovic has admitted he is in a hurry to achieve success at Manchester United, arriving at Old Trafford in the twilight of his trophy-laden career, so it is perhaps no surprise that his first winning goal in a red shirt secured his first winners’ medal for the club.
The 34-year-old, who arrived at United on a free transfer after scoring 50 goals in 47 games for Paris Saint Germain last season, will do well to contribute even half that tally in English football.
But his first one secured the Community Shield for United and Jose Mourinho as Premier League champions Leicester City were beaten in the traditional season curtain-raiser at Wembley.
Jesse Lingard’s spectacular solo goal had given United a first-half lead before Jamie Vardy equalised early in the second-half for Claudio Ranieri’s team.
But Ibrahimovic is a player accustomed to living in the limelight and he ensured he claimed it once again by heading the winner seven minutes from full-time.
With neither side enjoying a serene pre-season – United’s preparation has been hampered by the cancellation of the Beijing friendly against Manchester City, while Leicester have shipped four goals against both Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona – this fixture was important not only in terms of claiming the first silverware of the campaign, but also for fitness.
Being ready for the Premier League opening weekend was the priority for Ranieri and Mourinho, but Wembley is never a bad arena in which to lay down a marker for the new campaign and both teams did even enough to suggest that they will challenge for honours this term.
The task ahead of both teams is wholly different, however. Leicester must prove that last season’s title success was no fluke, with the added difficulty of now being a scalp to be claimed, while United simply must do better than last season’s fifth placed finish.
And under Mourinho, United already look a different outfit than that which toiled for so long under Louis van Gaal last season.
The former Chelsea manager has added height and presence to the team, greater athleticism – particularly in the shape of defender Eric Bailly – and he has also ordered his players to be more direct and adventurous.
The sideways passing of last season is no more, with Lingard’s stunning opening goal an example of the not-to-subtle change of approach.
Leicester had created the better earlier chances prior to Lingard’s goal, however.
Shinji Okazaki sent a left foot shot narrowly wide after Vardy had beaten Bailly before the Japanese forward sent a header against the crossbar after beating Michael Carrick and Ibrahimovic to Marc Albrighton’s corner.
Bailly, a £30m summer signing from Villarreal, impressed on his competitive debut – reading the game well, despite at times diving into challenges.
And the Ivorian showcased his pace and tenacity on 26 minutes with a perfectly-executed challenge on Vardy, just as the England forward was preparing to strike Danny Drinkwater’s through-ball.
United weathered the storm, though, and claimed the lead on 32 minutes when Lingard scored again at Wembey following his FA Cup final match-winner last May.
Having received the ball on the edge of the centre-circle inside the Leicester half, Lingard raced through the gears, beating four defenders, before calmly side-footing past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
It was a stunning goal, one which would have impressed watching England manager Sam Allardyce as much as Mourinho.
With his champions trailing, Ranieri introduced £16m club record signing Ahmed Musa at the half-time interval and it proved to be a crucial change.
The summer acquisition from CSKA Moscow is blessed with searing pace and it led to the equaliser just seven minutes into the second-half.
With the Nigerian breaking down the left, he played the ball inside for Vardy, only for Marouane Fellaini to intercept the pass.
Fellaini’s next touch, a woefully under-hit back-pass to David de Gea, gifted Vardy his opportunity, though and the Leicester striker capitalised with a typical finish beyond the United goalkeeper.
Inside a stifling Wembley, both teams went for the win rather than attempting to contain their opponents and the action switched from end to end.
Wayne Rooney shot wide from distance after being teed up by Luke Shaw, while Demarai Gray forced a save from De Gea following another electric burst by Musa.
United then lost Lingard to injury, with the Warrington-born midfielder accepting defeat in his attempt to run off a foot problem sustained in a challenge by Andy King.
But with the game heading to penalties, Ibrahimovic delivered when he rose above Leicester captain Wes Morgan to head Antonio Valencia’s 83rd minute cross in off the post with Schmeichel proving helpless to keep it out.
The Swede had been largely quiet prior to that moment, but his role is score when it matters and this goal earned his and Mourinho’s first trophy in United colours.
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