Five key Community Shield questions

Manchester-United-VS-Leichester-City-800x600LONDON: Jamie Vardy meets Zlatan Ibrahimovic as Premier League champions Leicester City face FA Cup holders Manchester United in the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday.

Ahead of the the annual curtain-raiser to the English season, AFP Sport looks at five key questions that the game could help answer.

Will Mourinho make his mark?

Jose Mourinho will be keen to mark his first significant outing as United manager with a tone-setting victory as he looks to improve his disappointing Community Shield record.

Since his Chelsea team defeated Arsenal in 2005, Mourinho has been beaten three times in the fixture.

Last year’s first ever loss to arch rival Arsene Wenger culminated in the feuding managers refusing to shake hands.

That sour note was followed by Chelsea making a painfully slow start to the season, which eventually cost Mourinho his job.

The United manager knows he cannot afford a similarly lethargic opening as he aims to make a good impression in his new role.

‘Bromance’ for Ibrahimovic and Rooney?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic hailed Wayne Rooney as the “perfect partner for a striker” after United’s Swedish forward played alongside the England star for the first time last month.

Rooney finished last season in an unfamiliar midfield role, but Mourinho wants United’s captain to return to a more attacking position despite the arrival of Ibrahimovic from Paris Saint-Germain.

Ibrahimovic has been a star wherever he has played in his glittering career, but this is his first taste of English football and his ability to dovetail with Rooney will be crucial to both his and United’s success.

The pair appeared to switch smoothly between orthodox and deep-lying attacking positions in United’s friendlies against Galatasaray and Everton.

The Community Shield offers another chance to hone the partnership before the Premier League kicks off.

No regrets for Vardy?

Jamie Vardy’s meteoric rise from non-league obscurity to Premier League champion was last season’s fairytale and the Leicester striker is determined to ignore the trappings of sudden celebrity.

Vardy, who scored 24 league goals last season, has described his life since Leicester’s triumph as “carnage”.

The 29-year-old says he cannot even leave his house without being mobbed and he will be relieved to be able to focus on the pitch again.

Vardy surprised many with his decision to snub Arsenal’s advances in the close season, citing Leicester’s team spirit as a major factor.

It will be fascinating to see if that proves the right decision for a player whose relentless work-rate embodies the feisty attitude that carried the Foxes to the title.

Can United find the right defensive recipe?

Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, was lambasted for the dire quality of United’s football, but his team were a solid prospect defensively.

No Premier League team recorded more clean sheets than United’s 18 last season and they boasted the division’s joint-best defensive record along with Tottenham Hotspur.

But changes in United’s back four are afoot, with left-back Luke Shaw fit again and Mourinho splashing out £30 million ($39.5 million, 35.4 million euros) to sign Ivorian centre-back Eric Bailly from Villarreal.

Bailly is vying with Phil Jones and Daley Blind for the right to partner Chris Smalling and Mourinho will want to settle on his preferred configuration quickly.

Will Ranieri’s new boys bed in?

With the Premier League title to defend and a first Champions League campaign to prepare for, Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri has bolstered his squad with his latest series of under-the-radar signings.

Having already benefitted from astute scouting that unearthed gems like Vardy, N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez, Ranieri will hope for similar dividends from Ahmed Musa, Nampalys Mendy, Luis Hernandez and Bartosz Kapustka.

Musa, Leicester’s £16 million record signing from CSKA Moscow, could be the best of the bunch.

The Nigerian striker struck twice, including a superb solo effort, in a mid-week friendly defeat against Barcelona.

With Kante having left for Chelsea, his replacement, French midfielder Mendy, also needs to make a fast start.