Jose Mourinho insisted Juan Mata was “fine” with his decision to substitute him in the dying moments of Manchester United’s Community Shield victory against Leicester City – just 29 minutes after introducing the Spain midfielder from the bench.
Mata, sold to United by Mourinho during the pair’s time together at Chelsea in January 2013, appeared angry with the stoppage time decision at Wembley, when he was replaced by summer signing Henrikh Mkhitarayan.
But United manager Mourinho attempted to play down any suggestion that Mata was unhappy at being taken off by claiming that the player’s lack of height prompted his late tactical switch.
“Mata is fine, he understands what I did,” Mourinho said. “I couldn’t take Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] or [Marouane] Fellaini off because Leicester’s ‘Rory Delap’ throw-ins would win it.
“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 were expecting a lot of long balls. He is the smallest one.
“But I think he played very well. He gave me exactly what I needed. We want to win and everyone is happy in the end.”
Manchester United’s best XI with Paul Pogba
David De Gea
Has been Manchester United’s best player for the last four or five seasons and, after having a move to Real Madrid collapse last summer he is now more important than ever. He saved United repeatedly under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal and will hope under Jose Mourinho that there is less to do.
A good player whose first season at Old Trafford was badly affected by injuries, Darmian should improve next year under the guidance of Mourinho. He has played for a similarly prescriptive coach for Italy in Antonio Conte and will provide exactly what Mourinho wants in the role.
One of United’s most improved players under Louis van Gaal, he established a leadership and consistency that he had lacked before. Now he is near the peak of his powers and gives Mourinho someone to build around at the back.
The first of Mourinho’s summer signings, the £30million man from Villarreal has looked good in pre-season already. Will need to adjust to the speed of the Premier League but looks well equipped to do that and form a strong pairing with Smalling.
Had his last season ruined by a broken leg against PSV Eindhoven and without him United lacked pace and width down the left. Mourinho will like his competitive attitude and Shaw will surely feature in Sam Allardyce’s England squads soon enough.
Mourinho teams always have a midfield anchor, what he calls a ‘number 6’, and there is no-one better suited to the job at United now than Schneiderlin. Did not play as much as he should have done last year but that should change now.
The big issue for Mourinho will be where to fit in the £100million man. There will be times when he plays alongside Schneiderlin in a 4-2-3-1, when United can afford to attack more, and others where he is pushed further up with two midfielders behind him. Finding the perfect platform will be Mourinho’s hardest task.
Not the highest profile summer signing at Old Trafford but a technical wizard who excelled in his three seasons at Borussia Dortmund, which is why Arsenal wanted him too. Likelier to be on the right of a 4-2-3-1, where he will provide creativity and intelligence.
Mourinho said very clearly that Rooney will not play in midfield this season for United, so he will have to partner with Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front. Rooney will likely start as a second striker or number 10, but has a job to prove that he is still sharp enough for the job.
Never looked weighed down by his fee last season and showed pace, class and natural calm in front of goal. Likely to continue on the left this season where he will provide pace on the break, as long as he does the defending Mourinho demands too.
One final challenge for the big Swede who has won the league everywhere else he has played. Still has incredible strength and skill, even if he will be one of the slower strikers at the top this year. Just needs to find a way to be a focal point for his team-mates.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 83rd-minute header winning the game for United, after Jamie Vardy had cancelled out Jesse Lingard’s first-half opener, Mourinho marked his first competitive outing as manager with a trophy.
But rather than claim it as his own, the Portuguese chose to credit his predecessor, Louis van Gaal, with the success.
“I want to dedicate victory to Louis van Gaal,” Mourinho said. “Without him, I would not be here celebrating because he won the FA Cup, which allows me to have one more trophy.
“I left many more trophies for managers to win after me and nobody remembers me, but this one I remember it was won by somebody who went before me.
“I also want to dedicate to the seven players who did not play, It hurts me to leave behind the likes of Depay, Jones, Young.”
With United set to launch their Premier League campaign away to Bournemouth next Sunday, Mourinho claims the trip to Dean Court will be the beginning of his ‘impossible’ dream as manager.
“My ambition is a stupid ambition,” Mourinho said. “It is impossible, but I want to win every game.
“That will start at Bournemouth next week and then the next game and the next if we win.
“But our desire to do well and work and improve (is our biggest strength). In this moment, we are not a super team, but we are a team with a super desire.”
Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, insisted that he now wants the Community Shield success to be the first of many trophies he wins at United.
“It feels good,” said the summer signing from Paris Saint Germain. “The first official game, we play for a trophy and we win.
“This is my 31st trophy, I’m super happy, but hopefully I can win much more than this.
“It was a difficult game. We played against a good team. They were very strong.
“But something big is going on with our team. We begin with a trophy.”