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Premier League In-Depth: Manchester United cling to victory in 2-1 win over Leicester City in Premier League opener


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José Mourinho’s Manchester United squeaked a 2-1 victory over Leicester City in the first match of the new Premier League season.

The Red Devils avoided stirring up any more disquiet in the red ends of Manchester following a relatively underwhelming end to the summer transfer window.

After only 75 seconds of the game, the referee (fairly) pointed to the Leicester penalty spot after the ball made clear contact with Amartey’s arm. Oozing confidence following his victory at the World Cup and as Manchester United’s new captain, Pogba attempted to lead from the front by taking the shot.

Cool as you like it, the United skipper toyed with Schmeichel in his run-up before placing the ball in the Leicester keeper’s left side corner. For a moment it looked like Schmeichel would just get his hand behind the ball to deny the French national, but there was no stopping Pogba’s stunning shot.

With the Reds up by 1, the scoreline for the remainder of the half did not reflect the performance. Leicester forced attack after attack, but each one failed to bring the foxes equal.

In his debut in the Premier League, youngster James Maddison, who signed this summer from Norwich city, looked very impressive. With Gareth Southgate watching from amongst the crowds, it looks as though it has become a matter of when, not if, Maddison will be called up to represent England. 

Maddison made his presence on the pitch known from the start of the game, especially after firing a shot at the Manchester keeper that forced De Gea into making a stunning save.

Following the break, it was clear Mourinho was unhappy with just a one-goal lead. With Leicester still relentlessly chasing the equaliser, United looked to step up their attacking play to double their lead.

With the 60th minute passing and Manchester United still only one ahead, Leicester brought Ghezzal on for his debut in the place of Amartey as well as replacing Maddison with Vardy. Mourinho followed suit by replacing the new number 10, Marcus Rashford, for the Belgian striker, Romelu Lukaku.

Late into the game, it looked like it was all over for the foxes after Lukaku’s was provided with a clear-cut chance on goal, with only Schmeichel standing in his way of the net. His initial shot was stunningly stopped by the Leicester keeper, but the deflection flew into the air and all of Old Trafford held their breaths as they waited to see if it would fall into the back of the net. It didn’t.

With only minutes left in the game Manchester United defender, Luke Shaw, earned his first Premier League goal following a superb cross from Alexis Sanchez, that he fired into the back of the foxes’ net. The goal looked like it had ended the contest, but Leicester kept fighting, looking to bring at least one back.

Doing what he does best, Vardy snuck one back in the 92nd minute after an expertly placed cross from Ricardo deflected off the Manchester United post, with Vardy on hard to poach the goal. And just like that, fears of an upset started to descend into Old Trafford, with Mourinho visibly unsettled.

Given a new birth of life, Leicester gave everything to find another goal in the dying minutes of the game. The foxes relentlessly attacked United, with none of their final attempts really challenging De Gea.

Finally, one attempt on goal was deflected behind the goal for a Leicester corner in what was surely the last kick of the game.

Every Leicester player, including Schmeichel, raced up to the penalty box, ready to fight for the point. With Maguire demonstrating his impressive presence in set pieces, it suddenly became a daunting possibility that Mourinho’s number one target in the summer transfer window could be the one to deny him his opening victory.

All the drama faded as the ball was headed just wide of De Gea’s post, ensuring Manchester United’s victory in the opening match of the new Premier League season.

There has been a general buzz in the footballing world as fans eagerly awaited the start of the new season following the hugely successful World Cup. All of the pre-match coverage for the seasons opening game was solely focused on Manchester United and their bizarrely underwhelming transfer window. 

The end of the window that has sparked numerous claims that Mourinho’s side has definitely ruled themselves out of contention for the Premier League trophy, with some even claiming they are at risk of falling out of the top six altogether. The speculation and failure to properly bolster the side has stirred up a lot of disquiet amongst the Red Devil’s camp.

The unease has seemed to have relaxed, with the odds-on favourite Manchester United being able to see off the advances of Leicester City, especially during a home performance. Despite clinging to victory, there are still some areas that should concern Mourinho and his side, especially if they really want to challenge for titles and trophies.

It seemed like uncharted territory for United, as it is expected that Manchester United will come out on top after playing consistent attacking football, especially at home and against a team like Leicester. Despite having their own well-formulated attacks, Mourinho’s side often found themselves on the back foot and defending for long bouts of the game.

Throughout the seasons, we have become used to an overtly attacking Manchester United side with a strong line of defence. That style of play seems to have slightly faded and having been consistently been on the defence against Leicester may be enough of a shock to bring back this style of play.

As deadline day approached, rumours constantly circulated about Mourinho’s attempts to bring in a star central defender. With a commanding force in his back line, the United boss would be free to change up his tactics to a much more attacking minded style of play and failing to do so may prove to be a pivotal mistake in the Red Devils title campaign.

Harry Maguire would’ve been the perfect man for the Manchester United's back line, but after failing to capture the England star this transfer window, Mourinho should be ready to re-enter negations in January in order to nail down on the signing that would undoubtedly lift the mood and performance of his team.

The performance against Maguire’s Leicester City was proof enough that in order to focus on creating an efficient attacking force, United need to start with a strong central defender.  

With poorly executed attacking attempts and an unfortunate awarding of a penalty, nothing seemed to fall in place for Leicester City. As the season goes on and they accumulate more game time under their belts, the chemistry between their new players will build and they look likely to secure a mid-table finish.

Any talk of Manchester United falling out of the top six all together should be disregarded.

They demonstrated in the match against Leicester that they had moments of magic in them and with players returning from injury and back to full match fitness, United will probably clinch a top-four spot.

Managing to scrape the 2-1 win against Leicester City may have avoided the upset and retained the status quo, but a performance like that will not be enough if Mourinho wants to challenge the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City for the title and trophies of this campaign. 

Media Credit - Pixabay. Twitter. 

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