What We’ve Learned: De Gea back to his best, defence improving, the midfield has the ability, creativity lacking, goals are lacking

What We’ve Learned: De Gea back to his best, defence improving, the midfield has the ability, creativity lacking, goals are lacking

Manchester United beat Leicester City 1-0 at Old Trafford, returning Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side to winning ways after two draws and one defeat in the three matches before this one. Marcus Rashford was the key to winning this game and giving United three points, putting United into the top four of the Premier League, at least until Sunday afternoon.

United opened the scoring in the eighth minute of the match with Marcus Rashford won a penalty after Caglar Soyuncu made a challenge against the England forward and the referee, Martin Atkinson gave the penalty. Rashford hit his effort low and to the right of Kasper Schmeichel, who went in the wrong direction, putting United in the lead at Old Trafford.

David De Gea made a great save to deny Leicester from an equaliser in the 30th minute of the match after Harry Maguire headed away a James Maddison corner which went straight to Ben Chilwell on the edge of the box, he then chested the ball down and volleyed towards goal for De Gea to tip the effort over the crossbar.

Daniel James was lively throughout the match, even having a shot on goal six minutes into the second half from 25-yards out, however, it was well off target not pressuring Schmeichel. Leicester then started to turn the pressure on which was not ideal thinking about the same happening against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Crystal Palace and Southampton.

David De Gea showing glimpses of the player we all knew the club had in there.

David De Gea has made some mistakes this season, especially during the time his contract talks were being aired in the media, whether it was speculation (lies) or the truth, at the same time, he was making mistakes. However, after the international break. De Gea seems to have found some form, performing a few good saves against Leicester City to deny them.

With rumours over the last few days suggesting that the player has now signed a new contract at the club, this could be why he’s found the form, seemingly settled that he will remain at the club for as long as they want him, digging deep to get United out of the rut they were in and back in the direction of a better season, which is a step in the right direction.

De Gea has kept two clean sheets at Old Trafford this season, out of the two matches played at the Theatre of Dreams in the Premier League, which incidentally, is the same number of home clean sheets he had in the Premier League last season, with 19 matches being played. Onwards and upwards for United this season. The right direction is ahead now.

The defence has improved this season but there is still a long way to go before the fortress is back.

Despite injuries leaving positions at bare bones and the fact that Aaron Wan-Bissaka was not fully fit to face Leicester on Saturday, the defence is improving this season. If you look at the five matches played, United have kept clean sheets twice in matches they would have conceded goals in last season. Harry Maguire and Wan-Bissaka are two reasons for this.

Against Leicester, Maguire’s former club, the England defender won 100% of his tackles, won seven out of ten duels, won five out of six aerial duels, having an 83% pass completion. The calmness under pressure and the leadership of Maguire have really helped United move forward this season, which is great to see. More is needed, of course.

United really need to work on avoiding injuries. Having Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot out at the same time is problematic as there are no other fullbacks at the club other than Wan-Bissaka and Ashley Young, who have first team experience. Brandon Williams and Ethan Laird, if fit, could make the step up, but will be a gamble. A gamble which could pay off.

The midfield has the ability to shine with Scott McTominay getting stuck in and Fred showing signs of improvement against Leicester City.

Scott McTominay should hold his head up high after his performance against Leicester on Saturday afternoon. He has been the victim of a lot of abuse from the social media faction of the fan base, most of it unwarranted – all because he’s not a big name in the game. A player that they can rep on Twitter and get all the W’s.

McTominay was also praised by Solskjaer after his performance, talking about sticking up for his team and his teammates. The Norwegian said; “If teams are trying to intimidate us, he [McTominay] is there. He is a leader.” That says a lot about the player and just how hard he works, also the fact that he’s not scared to get involved if something is not right.

I was also impressed with Fred and the fact the midfield has more dimension when you can see how well he can adapt. Yes, it was his first appearance of the season but you can see he put the effort in. Winning the ball and playing it towards Andreas Pereira showed good vision. Perhaps, with Fred seemingly playing well, the formation could change?

Creativity is still an issue that needs to be resolved, as does the formation, which is not getting the best out of the players.

United still seem to lack the ability to create goals. Against Leicester, the only goal scored from form the penalty spot. Despite the likes of Daniel James and Harry Maguire having chances to score, there was little creativity in the team. Juan Mata is a good player but playing high pressing football is going to leave him chasing the game.

Solskjaer has Angel Gomes, who has been playing some good football at U23 level when he has played this season, also putting in some good performances during the pre-season tour of the summer, specifically, playing well against AC Milan in Cardiff, a game that United won in a penalty shootout. Gomes has not been tested in the first team this season.

United will face FC Astana in the UEFA Europa League at Old Trafford on Thursday and perhaps, with a trip to West Ham United on the horizon in the Premier League next Sunday, giving Gomes a shot against the Kazakhstani side would be a good thing for his development and for the club, seeing that a major problem could be solved with Gomes playing.

Goals are lacking but also something needed in order to win matches. It will only get tougher this season.

Now, I will state the obvious here. Football is about winning and to win goals need to be scored. United have scored just eight goals this season in the five matches they have played. Half of those were scored in one match, the 4-0 victory over Chelsea at the start of the season. This is clearly not enough goals from a club that has scored for fun in the past.

United has scored once against Wolverhampton Wanderers, a 1-1 draw. Once against Crystal Palace, a 2-1 defeat, once against Southampton, a 1-1 draw and now once against Leicester City, a 1-0 victory. That one goal was enough in the latest match but it will not be enough in future matches. United did well against Leicester’s onslaught, it may not work all the time.

Obviously, having Anthony Martial on the sidelines through injury, also losing Paul Pogba, and Jesse Lingard, who to be fair have not created many goals this season, but have in the past. I would have liked to see youth given a fair crack of the whip from the start today but United also needed to win. That pressure will be different on Thursday.

Solskjaer will have to get used to his squad playing twice a week for the foreseeable future with United facing FC Astana in the Europa League, kicking off a 20:00 BST on Thursday at Old Trafford, from there, they will travel to London to face West Ham United at 14:00 BST on Sunday at the London Stadium. The Carabao Cup sees fixtures coming thick and fast.

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