It is maybe in keeping with the uncertain sense of Manchester United’s summer that they got the Premier League season off to a winning start thanks to a goal by Luke Shaw.
Unwanted by Jose Mourinho, vilified by the manager at times, the left-back struck late on for the first goal of his senior career and it proved vital.
It had seemed until then that Paul Pogba would grab the headlines but Shaw’s strike was needed as Leicester City continued to press and substitute Jamie Vardy claimed an injury-time goal to fray home nerves.
There had been a muted celebration by Pogba and it has been a muted pre-season, with the simmering discontent of Mourinho, but there was a flood of relief at the end.
The award of the captaincy to Pogba felt symbolic and important given the French World Cup winner’s own future is in doubt.
United do not want to sell but Mourinho may, ultimately, not share that sentiment and, while Barcelona’s interest will be seen off this month they could return.
Mourinho may not have got the central defender he wanted with one of the players United bid for, Harry Maguire, lining up for the visitors, and they were again indebted to David De Gea.
United parked the bus a little late for Mourinho’s liking – with the team coach arriving just an hour before kick-off after being stuck in tea-time traffic.
He will have cursed that as another sign of preparations for this campaign going awry or conspiring against him but this fog of confusion could be lifted on the pitch once a ball was kicked.
Fortunately for United, they were given that chance as they were gifted the lead.
After just 77 seconds, Alexis Sanchez drove in a shot that was blocked by Wes Morgan.
The ball ricocheted up and, foolishly, right-back Daniel Amartey stuck out an arm to control it – he desperately claimed it came off his shoulder – but the handball was correctly given by referee Andre Marriner.
Pogba took the penalty and took one of the most bizarre run-ups – rather a slow tip-toe up – before side-footing the ball high into a corner of the net, above the dive of Kasper Schmeichel.
It was the third successive season that Leicester had conceded the first Premier League goal; having also opened the last campaign on a Friday night, away to Arsenal.
Although there was a sense of United dominating, Leicester worked their way back into the game by remorselessly targeting Matteo Darmian.
Up against the pace of Demarai Gray, and with Ben Chilwell charging forward from left-back, the Italian struggled.
He was easily turned by Gray, outstripped by Chilwell and United were indebted to two clearing headers from Pogba, and Kelechi Iheanacho screwing the ball across goal, although he was then flagged offside. It was a tight decision.
Leicester established territorial dominance. “Park the bus, Man United,” their fans sarcastically chanted and, although it was not quite that, the home side were indebted to De Gea when he saved superbly, and one-handed, to parry James Maddison’s fierce shot as the midfielder controlled the cutback of another debutant, Ricardo Pereira.
The pressure grew and, maybe, Victor Lindelof was fortunate when he appeared to pull Iheanacho’s shirt inside the penalty area.
Marriner waved play on but it only added to the sense that United had ceded the opportunity to maintain their early momentum.
They had to arrest that and seemed pricked into action as half-time approached, with shots by Pogba and Shaw which were easily dealt with by Schmeichel.
But it was Leicester – with Maddison, as well as Chilwell, surely impressing watching England manager Gareth Southgate – who were providing the greater coherency.
It made for a curious though certainly entertaining encounter. Both teams seemed vulnerable which was no surprise, logically, given they were depleted and not fully up to speed with Marriner taking action against Maddison and United’s new midfielder Fred after they kicked out at each other.
Substitutes were sent out to warm up. It became increasingly cagey; chances at a premium, and with the frustration of Mourinho beginning to grow.
Leicester manager Claude Puel made his move with a double change, including Jamie Vardy, who was not deemed fit enough to start the day after signing a new contract, while another new signing, Rachid Ghezzal, also came on.
Positive changes, although Maddison was unfortunate to be replaced even if United had begun to dominate possession by now with Juan Mata’s side-footed shot being deflected wide after he was teed up by Sanchez before Romelu Lukaku returned, replacing Marcus Rashford.
Lukaku should, perhaps, have settled it when found by Sanchez in the closing stages, but his effort deflected off Schmeichel and looped over the crossbar.
What Lukaku could not do, Shaw could.
Having latched onto Mata’s ball out to the left, he beat Ricardo somewhat fortunately before hooking an effort past Schmeichel.
Mourinho, so often a critic of Shaw’s, celebrated vigorously, fists clenched, among his backroom staff.
The scares of the first half were revisited in stoppage time, with Vardy nodding the ball home from close range after a cross came back off the post.
Leicester went in search of another but, as when on top in the first half, an equaliser eluded them. (© Daily Telegraph, London)