Saturday, 24 September 2016

United Blow Away the Champions.

Manchester United 4 Leicester City 1

Manchester United turned on the style along with goals which saw off the challenge of Leicester City in an impressive first half of football not seen at Old Trafford for a long time.

In a week in which Jose Mourinho has fended off criticism of himself, his team and his captain it was back to Premier League action and the visit of the reigning champions to Old Trafford.

United returned to winning ways against Northampton Town in the EFL cup in midweek after succumbing to three successive defeats. For that tie, Mourinho made wholesale changes so it was interesting to see which side he would put out against the Foxes.

In the end, he chose a starting XI composed of: De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Blind, Pogba, Herrera, Lingard, Mata, Rashford and Ibrahimovic.

Rooney was dropped to the bench after some below par displays. Mata started his 150th Premier League game and Lingard was hoping for a better game than his last time out in the derby. At the back, Smalling kept his place alongside Bailly with Blind taking over left back duties in place of Shaw.

Pogba returned in midfield and it would be interesting to see how he would fit in along with Herrera, who was the best player against Northampton. Up front, there was another chance for Rashford to showcase his immense talent alongside Ibrahimovic.

United got the game underway looking to end a run of two Premier League defeats.

Daley Blind had the first speculative effort in the opening exchanges after good work from Valencia down the right. Blind's shot was too high, though.

The pace of Rashford was there for all to see from the off as he stormed into the oppositions box and it needed a good tackle to stop him in his tracks.

A cross was whipped in from the left by Mata aimed for the head of Pogba which it missed, but as it fell to the unmarked Ibrahimovic the crowd held its breath as he tried his standard acrobatic shot but this time it flew past the far post.

There was a neat interchange between Pogba and Mata which finally unleashed Rashford who was just beaten to the ball by the keeper Zieler.

It wasn't all United as the Foxes had their moments to attack without seriously troubling the back four or De Gea in the opening ten minutes.

Leicester had a two-minute spell in which they blasted shots towards United's goal each one being blocked by the resolute defence.

After twenty minutes it was a fairly lacklustre game with no clear cut chance for either side which in turn kept the fans subdued. However, all that changed when Blind sent over a high corner which was met firmly by the head of the captain for the day Smalling, who woke everybody up with the opening goal.

Leicester responded to going behind by immediately going on the attack, but it was United who broke through Herrera. He played a delightful ball forward for Ibrahimovic to chase. He unselfishly fed a rushing Rashford who looked certain to double the lead but for once, his finishing evaded him and he fired wide. The youngster followed that up with an overhead kick which flew over the bar.

All of a sudden the home side were in the ascendancy as Pogba skillfully clipped the ball over the defence to pick out Ibrahimovic, who chested the ball down and powered his volley over the bar.

Record signing Pogba was involved again as he thundered a long-range dipping drive on goal which the keeper didn't take any chances with and punched the ball two handed away for a corner.

What a difference a goal makes as the away side were now on the back foot as before the goal they had most of the possession.

Then in the 36th minute, Mata came up with a big goal as he was involved in a neat passing move with at first Pogba who flicked the ball onto Lingard inside the area he in turn laid the ball off to Mata who collected the flick on and hit a left-footed beauty into the back of the net to give his side a deserved 2-0 lead.

United added a third after Leicester fell asleep at another United corner. Blind was alert enough to see the run along the byline of Mata and rolled the ball into his path. Mata then sent in a low cross into the six-yard area and there was Rashford to slide the ball into the net for one of the easiest goals he will score.

Then the roof was lifted when United added a fourth in the 42nd minute and a first goal for Pogba who rose to power in a header to cap off an impressive display from United. It had to be said that the Leicester defence was a shambles.

Three of the goals had come from corners taken by Blind two long and one short all of which the Leicester defence were at sixes and sevens with.

Half time and four goals to the good. Who needs Rooney? It was the first time since 2001 that United had gone in at half time four goals ahead.

After a quiet start to the match, United eventually kicked into gear and for the first time in what seems like years provided the type of dominant football that has been lacking. They passed the ball well and had too much pace for Leicester who completely switched off after they conceded the second goal.

Pogba was outstanding and showed his class with some neat flicks, but it was Herrera, who once again shone with his all round play.

At the start of the second half, Mourinho wisely decided against making any changes. United started the half in a relaxed manner as it seemed with a lead of four goals they were happy to go through the motions. A feeling clearly not shared by their animated manager who stood on the touchline and urged his players not to lose their focus.

Leicester's Gray scored a fabulous goal from the edge of the area to deny De Gea a clean sheet. In a league that normally ends so tight goal difference is key so United would have to keep their defensive wits about them.

On the hour mark and leading 4-1, the atmosphere was a little underwhelming to say the least and United needed to lift themselves and the crowd.

Lingard tried to raise the pulses with a shot from the edge of the area after good work from Valencia but he was put under pressure from Gray and skied his effort over.

The big Swede Ibrahimovic pulled a fine save out of the keeper with a first time shot that was tipped around the post for a corner.

To their credit, the champions hadn't given up hope of rescuing something credible from the match and you could tell they sensed that United had taken their foot off the pedal as they attacked only for King to fire weakly at De Gea.

The fans filled the Theatre of Dreams with chants of Ander Herrera as the Spaniard mishit his shot from the edge of the area.

As the match entered the final quarter of an hour United started to look for the fifth goal when Valencia attempted a cross to find Ibrahimovic and Blind continued to deliver dangerous crosses from corners that the visitors struggled to deal with.

At the other end scorer Gray tried his luck again from the same spot where he had netted from but this time, De Gea pulled off a brilliant save at full stretch to deny him.

United's first change of the day saw Carrick replace Lingard. It will do Lingard's confidence the world of good to hear the fine reception he received from the home supporters who recognised the effort he had put in. Carrick made his landmark 500th League appearance.

Leicester continued to press forward, albeit a little too late as the minutes ticked by.

The second substitution came with some seven minutes on the clock as scorer Rashford made way for Rooney.

Ibrahimovic did his best to get on the score sheet as he tried to bend the ball into the far corner, but the keeper read it well and collected easily. He then had a shot blocked after being picked out by Mata.

That was Mata's last action as he came off for Young for the last few minutes.

Full time and in the end a comfortable win for United with all the damage done in the first half. There were some outstanding performances for the Reds especially from Bailly, Blind and Herrera. Ibrahimovic played exceedingly well without scoring. However, the man of the match had to be Paul Pogba who had by far his best game for United and topped it off with a goal.

After a week full of criticism from all quarters and 'Einsteins' United delivered a performance worthy of the badge and hopefully that momentum will be carried on over the next few weeks.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.