Man Utd vs Southampton: Debuts for Pogba and Rachel Riley
A new era begins at Old Trafford with the Friday night visit of the Saints and the return of Paul Pogba
It will be an evening of firsts in the Premier League this evening: Jose Mourinho takes charge at Old Trafford for the first time; Paul Pogba (pictured) takes his bow as the world's most expensive footballer, and the Premier League embraces Friday night football.
It is not the first Friday night Premier League match, that came last season because of policing issues, but it will be the first to be given the full Sky Sports treatment. The broadcaster has even roped in Rachel Riley from Countdown to help anchor its coverage.
The choice of Manchester United, arguably the biggest club in the country now led by the most famous manager and featuring the world's most expensive player, is an obvious one.
It offers "intrigue and near-guaranteed drama at the same time EastEnders is starting on BBC1, and it would not come as a surprise if David de Gea beat Danny Dyer in the battle for ratings," says The Guardian.
Friday night games are "great news for armchair supporters", it adds, although Sky probably failed to consider the possibility of a clash with the Team GB women's hockey team who play for gold in the Olympics at 9pm.
Moreover, some fans are uneasy about the new timeslot and there are practical considerations for away fans in particular. "That is certainly the case for some Southampton fans who planned to be at Old Trafford but cannot because their team’s first away trip of the season has been moved forward."
What's more, Mourinho has played down expectations ahead of the game, warning that Pogba may not start and is not fit enough to deliver a “super performance”.
He has only been training for a fortnight following his exertions at Euro 2016 and subsequent transfer saga. Plus, as the Daily Mail says, he is not renowned for "instant miracles".
"Mourinho is likely to stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation that saw United get off to a winning start at Bournemouth on Sunday, which would make Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini most vulnerable to being replaced," says the paper. "Henrikh Mkhitaryan will also hope for a full debut at the expense of Juan Mata.
"Whatever the line-up, Mourinho wants a cracking night-time atmosphere at the so-called Theatre of Dreams, which has been relatively quiet in recent seasons as David Moyes and Louis van Gaal have struggled."
Mourinho urged fans to "connect" with the team and the response could say much about the future for him, Pogba and Sky's Friday night football experiment.