The Foxes put up a spirited defense but eventually fell to top-of-the-table Manchester United 2-0 at Old Trafford this evening. Craig Shakespeare will likely be please with how his defense coped with the waves of attacks they faced, but the Foxes offered very little in attack and never seriously troubled the Red Devils’ goal.
The opening fifteen minutes went according to the script. United bossed possession and knocked it around smartly without ever looking much like scoring. City looked to get the into attacking areas quickly, but Eric Bailly and Phil Jones were alert to the risk of Jamie Vardy getting in behind, so no clear chances came of it.
After the quarter hour, the Red Devils threatened to break through the packed Leicester defenses with a number a clear opportunities. Romelu Lukaku’s shot from the edge of the area was spilled uncharacteristically by Kasper Schmeichel. Juan Mata was the first to pounce, but his goal was ruled out as the Spaniard was (only just) in an offside position.
Most of the danger came in the form of Anthony Martial, who gave Danny Simpson a torrid time on the Leicester right. United attacks down the right created havoc in the Leicester box time after time. It was, however, Mata on the right who had the best chance of the half. His curled effort was brilliantly tipped past the bar by the flying Schmeichel on twenty minutes.
The Foxes’ best chance fell to Shinji Okazaki two minutes later. His low shot lacked the power to beat David de GGea when laying the ball off to Riyad Mahrez on the right looked a better option.
The remainder of the half can be described as “Paul Pogba, sporting a Terry Butcher tribute hair colour, shooting from distance and missing the target.” As the clocked ticked on, Leicester looked increasingly disjointed, giving the ball away cheaply and committing silly fouls. It was with relief that the score was nil-nil at the half.
The second half started in much the same way that the first ended, with the Reds Devils camped out just outside the Leicester penalty area. Crosses from wingers inside the area are always good for penalty shouts, and there were two in rapid succession on either side of the area. The second, a fierce drive off Simpson’s arm at short range, was called. Romelu stepped up to take it. He went left, as he apparently always does, and Schmeichel saved well.
Schmeichel with a brilliant save at Old Trafford....not for the first time.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) August 26, 2017
It was never a penalty anyway, so justice done.
After the let off, City had their best stretch of play thus far. Mahrez had a couple of half-chances. Shakespeare brought on Demarai Gray and Andy King for Marc Albrighton and Shinji Okazaki and City kept the pressure on. Another run by the Algerian winger led to a low cross that went unmet directly in front of goal.
At this point, Jose Mourinho brought on Marcus Rashford for Juan Mata and the move paid almost immediate dividends. A Henrikh Mkhitaryan corner was met by an unmarked Rashford, whose scuffed shot beat Schmeichel despite the Dane getting both hands to it.
Shakespeare brought on Islam Slimani for the hobbling Vardy while United then sent on Marouane Fellaini for Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard for Martial. The Portugese’s moves once again led to an immediate goal. Lingard made a brilliant run into the area, waited patiently for support, and then fed the ball to an (only just) offside Fellaini in front of goal, who slotted in easily past the stranded City keeper.
Gray continued to show why he’s such a frustrating talent. He spearheaded numerous Leicester attacks in the late going but his end product was found lacking as he took long shots that would never trouble the United keeper instead of finding better options. Then, just before the death, he delivered a marvelous cross that found a marauding King in front of goal, producing the only save of real consequence from the Spanish minder.
In the end, Leicester can have no complaints about the result. United were the better side and 2-0 accurately reflects the run of play. I was prepared to write about how Mourinho had failed to get the tactics right as United dominated but struggled to make break through. However, all three substitutions had a hand in the two United goals and you have to say he got it right.
From a Leicester standpoint, there weren’t nearly as many positives from this match as from the opener against Arsenal, but there were some. The Wes Morgan/Harry Maguire partnership looked strong again and both Wilfred Ndidi and Matty James dealt as well as could be expected with a very strong United midfield. We simply didn’t offer anything in attack and, as such, never really looked like taking anything from this match.