As all eyes centered on Nemanja Matic’s Manchester United debut, it was another former Chelsea man who claimed the glory for Jose Mourinho in Dublin.
On an evening in which the United manager saw new £40m midfielder Matic complete his first half of football for the club, Juan Mata popped up late on to ensure Mourinho ended pre-season with a victory.
Hnrikh mkhitaryan scored in the 9th minute to give united a winning hope before D Praet equalised in the 63rd minute.Juan Mata put the Red Devils ahead again with an 81st minute fine strike.
It was a night that started peculiarly for United when one Dublin local pulled a prank and pretended to clamp the team bus into its parking space outside a city centre hotel.
That, however, was as dramatic as things would get on a pleasing evening for Mourinho as Matic earned his first minutes of pre-season after spending the past few weeks training alone at Chelsea’s training ground.
It is quite the compliment to Chelsea manager Antonio Conte that two of his competitors, Mourinho and Arsene Wenger, seem set to embark on the new season by imitating the formula that spearheaded Chelsea’s title charge last season.
In Mourinho’s case, he has even pinched one of the midfield heavyweights that greased the well-oiled Chelsea machine.
The Serbian Matic slotted in seamlessly to a 3-4-2-1 system that mirrored the role he played under Conte last season and we can expect to see United deploy this formation in their more challenging fixtures this season.
United almost immediately extended their lead when two more substitutes combined, as Ander Herrera stroked home Marouane Fellaini’s knockdown – but the linesman’s flag curtailed the Basque midfielder’s celebrations.
For United, it was a rare sight of goal in a rather ponderous performance in which their most talented players rarely demonstrated their gifts.