Manchester United face a tricky task today as they host Brendan Rogers’ in-form Leicester City side at Old Trafford. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men had made the dream start when they routed Chelsea 4-0 on the opening day and the Red Devils have not won since, however, having picked up just two points from subsequent matches against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Crystal Palace and Southampton. United could desperately do with a big result today, but Leicester won’t make it easy – the Foxes are unbeaten in their opening four Premier League matches so far this season
Manchester United will be desperate for a return to winning ways when they take on Leicester City at Old Trafford today after failing to win any of their last three Premier League games, while Leicester will feel confident of causing an upset following a solid start to their 2019-20 campaign.
Despite only being four games in, failure to claim three points over the Foxes today would present serious existential questions of a Solskjaer team which has only won three of its last 13 games.
United’s inability to win any of their last three games against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Crystal Palace and Southampton has made that 4-0 win over Chelsea feel like a distant memory and shifted a series of technical problems into clear focus, creating an atmosphere of pressure just a month into the new campaign.
The Red Devils were especially criticised following the 1-1 draw with Southampton at St Mary’s, which saw United take the lead against a poor Saints side before somehow failing to add to their advantage – something you’d expect Liverpool or Manchester City to do against a lesser opponent on the back foot – even when the home side was reduced to 10 men for the final 20 minutes of the game.
What those final 20 minutes displayed, above anything, was the lack of any seniority in an attack spearheaded by Marcus Rashford, whose talent is undisputed but went completely missing against Ralph Hasenhutt’s side, leaving United with no real focal point to bind together passing combinations in the final third.
Despite youngsters Daniel James and Mason Greenwood both impressing, the dearth of goalscoring maturity in the last game prompted many to highlight whether United’s decision to sell Romelu Lukaku and loan Alexis Sanchez during the transfer window may have left them short in that department.
Another area where United feel light is the midfield, which has struggled for consistent tempo in all four games so far this term. Indeed, following the club’s decision to sell and not replace Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini over the summer, the quintet available to Solskjaer comprises of Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Fred, Andreas Pereira and Nemanja Matic.
For a season which is likely to contain over 50 games, United supporters may worry that their team does not have the mileage nor the quality in that area necessary to play at a consistently high enough level over a nine-month period in order to challenge for Champions League football next season.
The meeting with Leicester, whose squad seems more balanced and energised than United’s, will serve as a useful indicator of whether the current crop of players at Solskjaer’s disposal are indeed capable of improving on their sixth place finish last season.
If United are a team heading backwards, Leicester deserve to be recognised as a team heading inexorably in the right direction under Brendan Rodgers.
Since taking over from Claude Puel in February, Rodgers has imposed his high-pressing, counter-attacking style on this Leicester team to devastating effect, energising the midfield and placing more emphasis on attacking the space in behind defenders for Jamie Vardy to exploit.
The Foxes find themselves in third place in the Premier League table after four games – only Manchester City and Liverpool, once again the pacesetters for the division, are ahead of them – and their performances merit that standing.
Following hard-fought draws against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea, Leicester have been good value for their wins over Sheffield United and AFC Bournemouth during which Vardy claimed three goals – including a sumptuous chip against the latter.
Indeed, while Vardy has continued to impress, perhaps it is the midfield where Leicester can rightly feel they most notably eclipse United at this moment in time.
Wilfred Ndidi has looked very solid in defensive midfield, while Youri Tielemans – signed for £40m over the summer and James Maddison, who is going from strength to strength, are enjoying excellent starts to the season. Any from that trio, you could argue, would improve the current United midfield, which is why it comes as no surprise that all three, especially Maddison, have been linked with moves to Old Trafford over the summer.
United did manage to sign a Leicester player this summer in the form of Harry Maguire, who has been solid so far, but this loss does not appear to have greatly impacted Leicester at all, with replacement Caglar Soyuncu looking right at home in central defence alongside former United player Jonny Evans so far this term.
From a Leicester point of view, there has perhaps never been a better chance to claim all three points at Old Trafford against a United team which is lacking balance and confidence.
Earlier today, Liverpool welcome Newcastle to Anfield. The Reds have made probably the best start they could dream of, in pursuit of their holy grail, the Premier League title.
After the completion of four match-days, the team has registered four wins and has already scored an impressive 12 goals, bettered only by arch-rivals, Manchester City.
Once again the league crown is about to be subjected to a ping pong game between these two, and there really is no scope for even the minutest of mistakes. Last time around Jurgen Klopp’s men had accrued 97 points.
This would have been enough for the title for all of the previous seasons, barring the last two where City got their hands on the trophy.
As such, every single point will count, and to be frank, as dramatic it may sound – Liverpool’s best course seems to target 34 wins from the next 34 match-days. Such is the level of competition offered by the bald freak from the dugouts of the City contingent.
For sure Newcastle is about to face their hardest task in the season, considering that the venue is Anfield.
So far, the Magpies have registered a single win on the table, and ironically though, it was against Tottenham, and on the road as well.
The moral is – the reigning European champions should not be too sure of the three points.
Anfield could be touted as the biggest home advantage a team could be given at present in the world of this sport-Spanish champions Barcelona will provide sufficient testament to this statement.
As of now, the 2018-19 Premier League runners-up were unbeaten in 21 of their previous 22 home ties. And the sole loss had come against Napoli, and that too in a friendly.
Moreover, the Magpies have been unable to register a single win in the last 21 years at this dreaded venue.
And in fact, the former 20 such clashes ended in four draws, and an unbelievable 16 wins for the hosts. In addition, they had also scored twice or more in 18 of these meetings.
Going on, this season, the Reds are sporting a 100 per cent win-record, whereas their counterparts have recorded a single win. Count on the home team making it five wins out of five, and making the title-race more interesting.
As has been the case for the past couple of years, the on-fire frontline will get to their job early on. And a goal-riot is probably in the making.
Taking into account Newcastle’s win over the Spurs, Virgil Van Dijk and his backline will have to put in a focused shift though.