Harry Maguire travelled to Manchester with his Leicester City team-mates to kick off the 2018/19 Premier League campaign. He returned to the King Power stadium empty-handed as the Red Devils recorded a 2-1 victory.
José Mourinho gave Fred his debut and made Paul Pogba his captain while Claude Puel gave starts to summer signings Ricardo Pereira and James Maddison with Rachid Ghezzal, Jonny Evans and Danny Ward having to be content with a place on the bench.
The match got off to a flyer. The home side were awarded a penalty after just 75 seconds. Luke Shaw found Alexis Sánchez in the area. Pinball in the box ended with the ball striking Daniel Amartey’s arm. Paul Pogba stepped up and after a purposely delayed run-up, he slotted the ball home.
United had their lead and should have had momentum on their side. But it was the Foxes who dominated the opening 45 minutes and made Mourinho’s men look like the away side. They edged possession, 53 per cent to 47, had two more shots and six more corners.
Maddison was the hub for those in blue with everything good going through the former Norwich City man. Leicester’s best chance fell to their new No.10 but David de Gea, like the majority of the time, was equal to his effort.
As expected, the second half was a bit more rushed with both teams needlessly sacrifiing possession on a number of occasions. The more stretched the game became, the more chances United seemed to create.
Romelu Lukaku came off of the bench and saw an effort from eight yards saved by Kasper Schmeichel but the home side weren’t undeterred by this. Not long after the chance, Luke Shaw brilliantly controlled a delightful Juan Mata pass before poking the ball home.
Jamie Vardy scored a consolation in added time bit Leicester couldn’t find that all important equaliser.
It wasn’t pretty but it didn’t have to be. Mourinho’s men opened their season with a win. Here are five things we learned.
Leicester could challenge for a European spot
It went somewhat under the radar but the Foxes recruited well this summer. Riyad Mahrez may have departed from the King Power stadium but the signings of Maddison and Ghezzal go someway to replacing the creativity and unpredictability of their former No.26.
Evans helps solidify the Leicester backline in the immediate future while Çağlar Söyüncü and Filip Benković give the Foxes solid foundations for the future and Ward is a capable understudy to Schmeichel.
All in all, the 2015/16 Premier League champions are one of the most intriguing outfits in the English top flight and their performance tonight strengthens the belief they should be competing for a European place this season.
Mourinho needed reinforcements
If reports are to be believed, the Manchester United manager drew up a list of five centre-backs he felt he needed with the idea that two would be calling Old Trafford home when the transfer window closed. Unfortunately for him, the club weren’t able to bring in any defensive reinforcements.
A story in the Guardian suggested those in charge in Manchester weren’t prepared to back the boss due to his short-term view for the club and his plans, if carried out, would’ve had a negative impact in the long run. But it’s clear that if United are going to be near the top of the table this year, they’re going to be heavily reliant on de Gea once again.
The ex-Atletico Madrid shot-stopper, who had a World Cup to forget for Spain, was tested on a number of occasions tonight after Leicester carved open the United backline with relative ease.
Red Devils lack an identity
This could be tied to the lack of reinforcements arriving this summer. After all, Mourinho was only able to bring in one first-team player in the shape of Fred.
Lee Grant is nothing more than a third choice ‘keeper while Diogo Dalot is one for the future. There’s a train of thought to suggest the non-existence of identity is because the United boss wasn’t able to make the signings he wanted. But this is the Portuguese tacticians third season in charge, the players at his disposal should have a style by now and Mourinho’s vision should be clearer. It’s not, and it’s down to the former Chelsea manager.
Old Trafford was once a fortress for Man United yet the manager has managed to change the mentality of his players via the tactics he deploys. It feels like an away match and feeds into his underdog mentality and while they may pick up points, this isn’t a side to be feared.
Maddison looks at home in the top flight
Some players need time to adapt to their new surroundings while others don’t. If his performance tonight is anything to go off, Maddison falls into the latter category.
The 21-year-old, already burdened with a £20million price tag weighing heavy on his shoulders, was given the No.10 jersey ahead of the match at Old Trafford, the home of the most successful team in Premier League history.
He would have been forgiven had he been overawed and had a game to forget. But, along with Demarai Gray, he was one of the standout players on show and not just for Leicester.
He looked like a seasoned veteran as he prowled the Theatre of Dreams looking to haunt those in red. Had it not been for de Gea between the sticks he would have been celebrating his first goal for his new club inside of 45 minutes.
If his season continues in a similar vein then the Foxes may struggle to keep him beyond the summer of 2019.
Sánchez needed the summer break
The Man United No.7 continued his pre-season form into the new campaign and looked at his irresistible best. The summer off, his first for the first time in nine seasons, seems to have done wonders for the robust Chilean and he was once again the bright spark for the Red Devils.
He played a part in winning the early penalty but it was his performance off of the ball which really caught the eye. He was buzzing around the pitch and his movement looked razor sharp.
The end ball may have been lacking but he looked more like the Sánchez who terrorised Premier League defences while playing in the capital. If he’s firing on all cylinders, United won’t have trouble putting the ball into the back of the net.