August 25, 2017
Manchester United return playing again this weekend against former English champions, Leicester at Old Trafford, 17:30 BST. The Reds are top of the table having won the first two Premier League games 4-0 against West Ham United and Swansea City. Mourinho’s tactics have worked perfectly so far with the team producing great play but also being able to manage the situation and scoring when the opponent was going strong. Both signings, Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic have been key to the success, but the one player we have all enjoyed is Paul Pogba who has clearly stood out from the rest with his top performances. On the other hand, Leicester lost their opening game to Arsenal in a 4-3 thrilling match, while won the second won 2-0 against Brighton. The Foxes also defeated Sheffield United in the second round of the Carabao Cup. Leicester will have their most important player back after the injury he suffered against Brighton in the weekend. The player is fully recovered as he was on the bench when Leicester defeated Sheffield on Tuesday night.
Key Players: Jamie Vardy and Paul Pogba in a proof of strengths on Saturday
Craig Shakespeare was indeed happy to see his star man fully recovered despite the fact that the player remained as an unused substitute in the Carabao Cup second round qualifiers. His presence is really important to the team and he will be the number one danger to Manchester United’s defence. On the other side, we have Paul Pogba who is finally showing why Jose Mourinho was so determined to get Paul Pogba back at Old Trafford. Mourinho’s tactics have provided through Matic, to set Pogba free who has always has been a bit unfortunate in goal as his shot hit the bar again with Eric Bailly getting his first goal for United from that shot. His presence in midfield has been important to the team’s attack as he has provided freedom for both Mata and Mkhitaryan to act down the middle and on the wings. Last season he had to go through a few frustrating moments but in the end, he has learnt a lesson from all of those.
Attention is what he needs and he is getting it, this time not just because of his new hairstyle, but because of the things he is doing on the football pitch. After a good first season where he would be compared to every single midfielder in the league, Paul Pogba showed massive improvement during preseason making Mourinho think of his best position as the French had brilliant performance as a holding midfielder, but he sees himself further in attack, first making sure that everything is working well in the defence. This case was solved when Mourinho bought Nemanja Matic who is providing what Pogba needed while on the other side he may soon partner with Herrera something that will be up to Mourinho. Pogba has matured somehow as we don’t see him acting childish while on the other side there is something at Pogba that reminds me the times he played at Juventus. Whatever it is, the best is yet to come.
He was a worry due to his foot injury but he is ready to take on United on Saturday. While I might have focused on someone else, Jamie Vardy is indeed the biggest weapon Leicester possesses at the moment. he hasn’t changed a bit and it can be seen that against top sides, they rely on him and he did his job really well against Arsenal despite the fact that Leicester lost 4-3. The Englishman may be David De Gea’s first strong test as the Spaniard has kept two clean sheets, but it has felt that came as a result of a lack of an attacking threat on the other end. This is why playing Vardy will definitely do good to Craig Shakespeare’s team and actually stop United from winning.
Key Battles: An Ander Herrera return to keep the midfield safe while Eric Bailly stops the opposition’s biggest threat and Lukaku facing Kasper Schmeichel
Ander Herrera -v- Shinji Okazaki
While changes weren’t needed in the past two games with United keeping the same module and lineup, this time based on the opponent, I do think that Jose Mourinho must take measures regarding one big threat named Shinji Okazaki. The player who scores against both Arsenal and Brighton & Hove Albion has played behind Vardy and has excelled in the role. That’s where Ander Herrera’s help is needed. The Basque is yet to start one league game this season with Mourinho sticking to midfield of two. However this time things are different. While we played a more defensive opponent last Saturday, Leicester will attack through Okazaki as Vardy’s double figure. With Ander Herrera able to man mark Okazaki there will be one less problem for Matic in the holding role. Another great thing about this is the fact that Ander can help Pogba up front since the Spaniard inclusion to the Starting XI means that Jose may drop either Juan Mata or Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Mourinho decides, but this is a big midfield test and we may need Herrera in the midfield.
Eric Bailly -v- Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy’s scoring when it comes against United will get a bit harder as he faces one of his toughest opponents, Eric Bailly. Bailly just recently scored his first goal for United yet his biggest attributes in a red shirt are in the heart of the defence. Solid as a rock, Bailly spells trouble for most of the strikers who have faced him. Didn’t put a foot wrong in the whole pre-season and he has had a great start of a season. What makes him special is the ability to control and manage situations calmly transmitting this to his partner as well. Bailly has gotten the best out of Jones so far, something we weren’t used to it when he would play alongside Chris Smalling. However, having both our centre-backs in top form, yet to concede means that they are both doing great. The opponent is sneaky and raises the standards of the quality they must top on that Saturday evening. Vardy is now fully recovered from injury and is ready to face Bailly and on the other, the Ivory Coast international is ready as well.
Romelu Lukaku -v- Kasper Schmeichel
Last but not least we have Romelu Lukaku facing one of the best goalkeepers in the league, Kasper Schmeichel. The Belgian striker has already scored three goals in two games and will be looking forward to adding more in his account as he faces Schmeichel. The Leicester City knows whom he is facing, yet is afraid of the trick the threat that Lukaku may contain himself. An open area to leave the other creative and pacey players do the job. As the team’s main striker, Lukaku will be marked meaning that he won’t have much space, the same thing happened against Swansea. This led to confusion as their defence left spaces causing them to concede four, three in less than ten minutes. That’s why Lukaku will target Schmeichel, probably trying outside of the box. In other words, not only Kasper needs focus but his reflexes cannot let him down. If given a chance, getting past defence won’t be a problem so the ‘young’ Schmeichel better get prepared.