Jose Mourinho received an instant reward for handing Paul Pogba the captain’s armband when the World Cup-winning midfielder paved the way for Manchester United’s 2-1 victory over Leicester as the English Premier League season opened on Friday.
Having returned from France’s march to the World Cup title in Russia last month to intense media speculation about his future under United manager Mourinho, Pogba was named skipper of a team that included debutant Fred.
After an unusual stuttering run-up that briefly gave way to jogging on the spot, Pogba rifled home the first goal from the penalty spot in the third minute after Daniel Amartey handled a shot from Alexis Sanchez.
The France playmaker then continued to impress as the first half wore on at Old Trafford, leading his team-mates by example.
United had several chances to extend their lead against a Leicester side that called goalkeeper David De Gea into action more often than Mourinho would have liked.
The manager, however, celebrated on the touchline after Luke Shaw directed home his first senior goal to put the result out of reach.
Substitute Jamie Vardy pulled one back with a stoppage-time header after Ricardo Pereira’s cross came back off the post, but it was too little, too late for Leicester.
Leicester looked startled by United’s early intensity but slowly began to feel its way into the match, with debutant James Maddison shining.
Demarai Gray clipped in a smart ball that Kelechi Iheanacho followed with a strike across the face of goal, before a fierce Maddison shot was denied by De Gea.
At the other end, Andreas Pereira, making his first United appearance since February 2016, looked sharp in midfield alongside Pogba.
Matteo Darmian then tested Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel at the near post early into a second half that United started with bundles of possession, but few clear-cut chances.
A good opening came when Pogba fed Sanchez and he set up Juan Mata, who had a shot that was deflected just wide.
But it was far from one-way traffic. Eric Bailly did superbly to deny Iheanacho, and Vardy bundled Shaw off the ball to send in a cross that Gray almost flicked home.
It was Shaw, who just like Pogba has endured tough times with Mourinho, who was the unlikely late hero for United.
With seven minutes remaining, he flicked the ball past a defender before sending a low left-footed strike into the net.
It was the first senior goal for former England and Southampton defender Shaw, on the 23-year-old left-back’s 141st appearance.