With a four star first half show, United shirked Leicester’s challenge and made sure they stay on pace with the bunch of teams that are behind leaders City in the table.
Mourinho named a strong side, and though Leicester were getting back on track themselves going into this game, we were optimistic especially as off-form captain Wayne Rooney was at last dropped from the starting line-up.
United were quite slow in the first twenty minutes, and Leicester seemed like the better side until Chris Smalling headed United ahead, after which they started turning the screws on. Fifteen minutes later Juan Mata finished a lovely move by doubling United’s lead, and just three minutes after that he put the ball on a plate for Rashford to tap in and make it 3-0. There was still time before the break for Paul Pogba to score his first goal for the club and practically making sure the points stayed at Old Trafford even though there was still a whole half to come.
In the second half United slowed down again, but it was understandable as with a four goal lead there was no need to keep pressing and using too much energy. With an hour gone, Gray pulled one back for Leicester but it would not dampen our spirits as United were still in control of the game. The other thing of note was Captain Rooney replacing Marcus Rashord with seven minutes to go. When the final whistle went it was cheers all round for United supporters as they had witnessed United’s best performance of the season so far, especially in the first half. This also meant that it was the Champions’ third defeat of the season, as many as they lost in the whole of last season.
Paul Pogba had his best game since coming back, though with the game won by half-time he didn’t do a lot in the second half; Daley Blind confirmed that he’s one of the best at the club when it comes to set-pieces (in this case, corners); Juan Mata had an excellent game too and showed Captain Rooney how to fill the role behind Ibrahimovic; Ander Herrera played very well next to Pogba, and was staying deep while the Frenchman was advancing to start attacks. As good as Fellaini had been playing (certainly better than expected), it seems that Herrera is a much better fit in that position.
On Thursday it was the turn of Ukrainian side Zorya to visit Old Trafford for a Europa League encounter. Mourinho made some changes from Saturday, including starting Romero in goal. United were by far the better side in the first half but could not find a way through with the best chance falling to Marcus Rashford who rattled the crossbar. The second half was a scrappy affair, but when Captain Rooney mishit a shot in Zorya’s area, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was there to pick up the pieces and jump higher than his marker to head the ball into the net and put United ahead. In the end it was enough to give United a close, untidy 1-0 win. Just like the game against Feyenoord this showed that the side lacks depth as some of the ‘reserves’ that played hardly filled fans with much optimism.
In other games in the Premier League, leaders City kept up their 100% record with a slightly lucky 3-1 at Swansea; Tottenham stayed second after winning 2-1 at Middlesboro; Klopp’s L’pool made sure the media keep singing their praises by trashing Hull 5-1; in the game of the weekend Arsenal beat sorry Chelsea 3-0 to make their fans start dreaming of winning the league again (the same thing happened when they beat United 3-0 around this time last year); ‘high-flying’ Everton lost 1-0 at Bournemouth; Moyes’ Sunderland snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as they lost 3-2 at home to Palace after being two goals up; West Ham kept up their torrid start to the season by losing 3-0 to Southampton at The London Stadium; Burnley beat Watford 2-0; while Stoke and West Brom shared a point each in the only draw of the weekend as the game finished 1-1.
In other news, Sam Allardyce stole the headlines when he was caught admitting how easy it was to go around ‘third party ownership’ when it came to transfers even if it went against FIFA rules. It lead to him losing the England job after just over two months of getting it and has already seen Barnsley sacking assistant boss Tommy Wright over corruption claims coming out of the Telegraph’s story that stitched Big Sam up. Southampton are also investigating their own assistant manager Eric Black over similar allegations made by the Telegraph. While it was wrong for Allardyce to get involved in such stories especially with the money managers like him get paid, you have to feel a little sympathy for him as this is probably just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to managers and their assistants getting ‘brown envelopes’ for working hand in hand with some of the dirty football agents around.
Back to United, Marcus Rashford has been left out of England’s U/21 squad for next weekend leaving the door open for him to be called up to the senior squad for their upcoming games against the mighty Malta and Slovenia.
We now look ahead at another home game in the Premier League (Sunday 12pm UK time), with the visitors this time being Mark Hughes’ Stoke. We will be hoping for a fourth consecutive win to make sure United stay towards the top end of the table… COME ON UNITED!!!