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THREE GOALS, THREE POINTS, THREE STATEMENTS - MATA, ROONEY & ZLATAN DELIVER ON DAY ONE FOR MAN UTD

The attacking trio shrugged off various
question marks to lead Jose Mourinho's men to
an opening-day win at Bournemouth

Three points, three goals and three players
showing exactly what they can do. Not a bad
afternoon’s work for Jose Mourinho’s
Manchester United to get the Premier League
season underway.

Returning to a ground on which they suffered
an ignominious 2-1 defeat last season, United
deposited of Bournemouth 3-1 with the kind of
clinical approach that was so sadly lacking for
most of the Louis van Gaal era.
And the identities of their goalscorers will have
quietened many of the club’s doubters over the
summer. With question marks of different
types hanging over Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney
and Zlatan Ibrahimovic they all answered with
aplomb.

But he will forever be remembered as the man
to score the first league goal of Mourinho’s
United era, pouncing on two separate lucky
breaks off Simon Francis to roll home the
opener. Aside from the goal, Mata played like a
man with a point to prove on the right-hand
side of the Reds’ attack. And while it will take
more of these afternoons to cement a regular
starting place, there was plenty to suggest he
has some part to play this term.

Rooney’s position as United talisman and
attacking force had been undermined by his
drop back to midfield under Van Gaal and his
ineffectiveness in that position at Euro 2016
with England, and here at Dean Court it took
him 20 minutes or so to get in the game with
several balls bouncing off the captain as he
took a while to come to terms with the game.
But he eventually grew into it and had a real
say in the flow of a far more inquisitive United
attack than was in evidence for much of last
season - and in getting himself on the end of
Anthony Martial’s miss-hit shot to turn home a
header justified Mourinho’s decision to promote
back to the number 10 position. He has made
his name in the penalty area, and when he got
in there he converted well.

For Ibrahimovic there have been the blinkered
onlookers wondering whether he can do the
business in the Premier League after racking
up goals all over the continent. But his flicked
pass to Rooney should have resulted in a United
goal early in the second half, and then he
delivered a wonderful third to kill the contest.
His low strike from distance beyond Artur
Boruc was pure Zlatan, and it instigated a 10-
minute long rendition of the new Ibrahimovic
terrace chant from the away end. While they
will have been impressed enough with his
strength, determination, hold-up play and
willingness to put his head on the line, a Zlatan
pile-driver topped off the supporters’
afternoon in the sun.

Bournemouth might have grabbed a consolation
through Adam Smith late on, but this was an
otherwise complete performance from
Mourinho’s side. It is true that they could move
the ball faster at times, and the lack of pacey
options out wide may need to be addressed in
time. But this was a much-improved
Manchester United in the vision of their new
boss.

Mourinho was hollering long and loud at his
players even in injury time with the result
beyond doubt, then shared a clenched-fist
salute with excutive vice-chairman Ed
Woodward at full-time. He knows there is still a
long way to get Manchester United back to
where they need to be.

But this was one hell of a start, and he can
thank Mata, Rooney and Ibrahimovic for
standing up to be counted on an afternoon
when the failure to do so would have had some
people questioning the validity of the
Portuguese’s new dawn.