Leicester City vs Manchester United Match Analysis

Leicester City vs Manchester United Match Analysis
Image result for leicester vs man utd 0-1
Image from Manchester Evening News
Manchester United went into this game on a nine game unbeaten run under Solskjaer, but suffered their first draw under the Norwegian manager on Tuesday. A Pogba penalty and Lindelof's first United goal brought United back from 2-0 down after 81 minutes to 2-2 and narrowly missing the chance to win their seventh league game in a row. Leicester City on the other hand, have been in disastrous form since a superb 2-1 win over Manchester City on Boxing Day. The Foxes have slumped to four losses out of their last six games including a 2-1 loss to League Two side Newport County and a 0-1 loss at home to a now 18th place Cardiff City. Leicester did gain a creditable draw over a lacklustre Liverpool on Wednesday after Harry Maguire equalised at the end of the first half and Liverpool failed to take advantage of Leicester's poor form of late. This game had the potential to challenge Ole's unbeaten run and potentially lift some of the pressure off Claude Puel who seems to be the next Premier League manager to be sacked after losing the fans through his stagnant, defensive-based football.

Team Selection:
Image result for harvey barnes vs wolves
Image from LeicesterMercury.com
Leicester City made one change to the side that defended so strongly against the league leaders, with the injured Marc Albrighton making way for Harvey Barnes, who starred on his Premier League debut for Leicester despite losing to Wolves 4-3. United made four changes to the side that struggled against Burnley with Eric Bailly, Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard all coming in for Phil Jones, Andreas Pereira and Juan Mata as well as Romelu Lukaku being replaced by Alexis Sanchez who made his first league start under Solskjaer at the King Power Stadium. Martial also returned to the 18 after an injury prevented him from featuring against Burnley and started the game on the bench alongside the likes of Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku. 

Starting XI's:
Schmeichel (c), Ricardo, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell, Mendy, Ndidi, Barnes, Maddison, Gray, Vardy

De Gea, Young (c), Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw, Matic, Herrera, Pogba, Lingard, Alexis, Rashford

Match Analysis:
Early chances for Leicester seemed to wake United up as they began to create chances the first of which was quite badly spurned by Marcus Rashford. Luke Shaw's pinpoint cross was met by Rashford, but the in-form striker somehow managed to fire the header wide of the net much to his shock as well as almost everyone else's in the King Power. United continued to attack and forced Schmeichel into his first save of the game with Rashford testing the Dane from a narrow angle and looking full of confidence again. It was United's no.10 that could have scored twice in seven minutes but broke the deadlock in the ninth minute of the game after Pogba's outstanding pass over the Leicester defence found Rashford who, not unlike his goal against Tottenham, drilled the ball into the bottom corner of the net putting United ahead. It was Leicester's turn to attack and a lucky deflection sent the ball to the feet of James Maddison. He could well have challenged David de Gea had Luke Shaw not made a last-ditch block to deny his fellow England international. The half ended sloppily with both teams making fouls resulting in yellow cards for Jamie Vardy, Nemanja Matic and Namphalys Mendy in the space of twelve minutes. Finally Rashford again tested Kasper Schmeichel but the 'keeper got low to deny Rashford his brace. Overall a decent half for United having kept Leicester at bay, especially on set pieces which seem to be both Leicester's strength and United's weakness. 

No changes were made at the start of the second half. It began with Leicester creating the first big chance of the second forty-five after Barnes flashed a cross past the goal and not long after, Maddison's shot skimmed the side netting. Despite these flurries of attacks, United controlled the game for the majority of the opening fifteen minutes and around the hour-mark, Rashford fired a shot towards the goal but it ended up wide. More importantly, in the build-up to the chance, Pogba was dragged back by Mendy and had Mike Dean spotted it, it would have surely been a second yellow for what was clearly a cynical foul. Moments after, David de Gea was tested for the first real time in the game after Maddison's freekick was deflected into the path of Jamie Vardy who attempted the overhead-kick from around twelve yards out. However, the Spaniard got down sharply to stop the acrobatic effort which was admittedly too close to United's no.1 to pose him a threat. While one of Leicester's best players today, James Maddison, made way for Rachid Ghezzal much to the dismay of the Leicester faithful. Alexis Sanchez came off for Anthony Martial not long after and to be honest, could have come off earlier as the Chilean barely had an effect today and often came too deep to collect the ball, something fans and pundits criticised him for under Mourinho. 

David de Gea makes a save from a free-kick
Image from the Guardian
Mendy was once again lucky to remain on the pitch as he pulled Herrera back which was again unseen by any of the officials and could have helped United in their plot to seal the game. Okazaki came on for Demarai Gray not long after to add some more energy to Leicester's play and allow Ghezzal to play on the right with Barnes on the left in order to trouble a tired Ashley Young. Leicester won another freekick and with Maddison off the pitch, Ghezzal took charge and fired an excellent effort towards the top left corner of De Gea's net, but the Spaniard read it well and got across to tip it away almost with ease! Rashford's strike was the difference as he came off for Lukaku with just over ten minutes to go and Lukaku had something to prove after a relatively poor performance against Burnley on Tuesday. Ghezzal was again involved in another Leicester chance as his whipped cross was met by Maguire, almost setting up Jonny Evans for a late equaliser. However, the former-United defender kicked at the air and United cleared. Mendy was hauled off before he was sent off and Kelechi Iheanacho came on in an attempt to get something from this game. It was end-to-end football for the last few moments of the game as while Lukaku forced a smart save from Schmeichel after a driving run, Barnes managed to get a cross past Bailly but Vardy's shot was too straight and ended in De Gea's hands comfortably. These were the last clear-cut chances of the game as Rashford's strike won the game in the first ten minutes and, despite Leicester's efforts, United's clean sheet remained unbreached in a narrow but not-uncomfortable 1-0 win. 

What does this mean for United?
Image result for ole gunnar solskjaer
Image from the Telegraph
Manchester United at last rise up the table to fifth, being within two points of fourth-placed Chelsea and a point ahead of Arsenal who have now lost 3-1 to Manchester City. United will now be aiming to build momentum against a struggling Fulham side on Saturday morning next week. While Arsenal travel to Huddersfield later that day, Chelsea travel to Manchester to play against the reigning champions in a game that could either hamper City's chances to retain the title or Chelsea's chances of returning to the Champions League via top four. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will hope to gain on Chelsea by next weekend before a series of difficult games with PSG (UCL), Chelsea (FA Cup) and Liverpool (EPL) all coming up before the end of the month, which could pose a threat for United's chase of silverware. Only time will tell but at the moment, a good win at a difficult ground, moving past Arsenal and a clean sheet as a bonus for the Red Devils as Leicester became the latest victims of Solskjaer's impressive start. 

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