Just 90 minutes into the Jose Mourinho era at Manchester United, and there they were, top of the league. Don’t laugh. The last time that happened to a Mourinho team they didn’t let it go until the title was won.
Other results were pending, of course. Not just this weekend, but through the remaining 37 fixtures of the season. One away win at Bournemouth does not make a title challenge. Then again, there was too much that was good here to just dismiss it as a first weekend irrelevance.
Much of what Mourinho tried worked, and key individuals left a mark on the game. Wayne Rooney scored, so did Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Juan Mata. Eric Bailly looked strong at the back and David De Gea’s good form continued.
Chris Smalling’s absence may prove unfortunate. Daley Blind’s intelligence seems a perfect foil for Bailly’s physicality and United looked nicely balanced even at the formative stage with Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to come. Lead from the front is Mourinho’s style, and his team began by doing just that.
The margin of victory was significant, too. The last time United scored three goals in an away league win was October 17, 2015, at Everton. Bournemouth, though small in stature, are no mugs either but United swept them aside. They were a goal up by half-time and three clear with 26 minutes remaining. Adam Smith pulled one back for Bournemouth after 69 minutes but it was no more than window dressing.
For all of Manchester United’s riches few regarded this game as a pushover. Pogba is yet to play – the world’s most expensive player is expected to make his debut against Southampton on Friday – and Mourinho left another summer signing, Mkhitaryan, on the bench. So this remains a team in transition. What is clear, though, is that Mourinho has got them going.