Man U vs. Leicester City
Kick off; 3PM
Manchester United will be desperate for a return to winning ways when they take on Leicester City at Old Trafford in the Premier League this afternoon.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have failed to win any of their last three Premier League games, while Leicester will feel confident of causing an upset following a solid start to their 2019-20 campaign.
Despite only being four games in, failure to claim three points over the Foxes on Saturday would present serious existential questions of a Solskjaer team which has only won three of its last 13 games.
United’s inability to win any of their last three games against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Crystal Palace and Southampton has made that 4-0 win over Chelsea feel like a distant memory and shifted a series of technical problems into clear focus, creating an atmosphere of pressure just a month into the new campaign.
The Red Devils were especially criticised following the 1-1 draw with Southampton at St Mary’s, which saw United take the lead against a poor Saints side before somehow failing to add to their advantage – something you’d expect Liverpool or Manchester City to do against a lesser opponent on the back foot – even when the home side was reduced to 10 men for the final 20 minutes of the game.
What those final 20 minutes displayed, above anything, was the lack of any seniority in an attack spearheaded by Marcus Rashford, whose talent is undisputed but went completely missing against Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side, leaving United with no real focal point to bind together passing combinations in the final third.
Despite youngsters Daniel James and Mason Greenwood both impressing, the dearth of goalscoring maturity in the last game prompted many to highlight whether United’s decision to sell Romelu Lukaku and loan Alexis Sanchez during the transfer window may have left them short in that department.
Another area where United feel light is the midfield, which has struggled for consistent tempo in all four games so far this term.
Indeed, following the club’s decision to sell and not replace Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini over the summer, the quintet available to Solskjaer comprises of Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Fred, Andreas Pereira and Nemanja Matic.
For a season which is likely to contain over 50 games, United supporters may worry that their team does not have the mileage nor the quality in that area necessary to play at a consistently high enough level over a nine-month period in order to challenge for Champions League football next season.
The meeting with Leicester, whose squad seems more balanced and energised than United’s, will serve as a useful indicator of whether the current crop of players at Solskjaer’s disposal are indeed capable of improving on their sixth place finish last season.
If United are a team heading backwards, Leicester deserve to be recognised as a team heading inexorably in the right direction under Brendan Rodgers.
Since taking over from Claude Puel in February, Rodgers has imposed his high-pressing, counter-attacking style on this Leicester team to devastating effect, energising the midfield and placing more emphasis on attacking the space in behind defenders for Jamie Vardy to exploit.
The Foxes find themselves in third place in the Premier League table after four games – only Manchester City and Liverpool, once again the pacesetters for the division, are ahead of them – and their performances merit that standing.
Following hard-fought draws against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea, Leicester have been good value for their wins over Sheffield United and AFC Bournemouth during which Vardy claimed three goals – including a sumptuous chip against the latter.
Indeed, while Vardy has continued to impress, perhaps it is the midfield where Leicester can rightly feel they most notably eclipse United at this moment in time.
Wilfred Ndidi has looked very solid in defensive midfield, while Youri Tielemans – signed for £40m over the summer – and James Maddison, who is going from strength to strength, are enjoying excellent starts to the season. Any from that trio, you could argue, would improve the current United midfield, which is why it comes as no surprise that all three, especially Maddison, have been linked with moves to Old Trafford over the summer.
United did manage to sign a Leicester player this summer in the form of Harry Maguire, who has been solid so far, but this loss does not appear to have greatly impacted Leicester at all, with replacement Caglar Soyuncu looking right at home in central defence alongside former United player Jonny Evans so far this term.
From a Leicester point of view, there has perhaps never been a better chance to claim all three points at Old Trafford against a United team which is lacking balance and confidence.
Man U possible XI: De Gea, Young, Maguire, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka, McTominay, Matic, A. Pereira, Lingard, Rashford, James.
Leicester possible XI: Schmeichel, R. Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell, Ndidi, Maddison, Tielemans, Albrighton, Gray, Vardy.