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Premier League Match Report: Manchester United - Leicester City

Early Rashford penalty plus lack of good play doom Foxes to defeat against very beatable United.

“That Maddison lad is born to play on the left wing.” - Brendan Rodgers, presumably
Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

Leicester City fell to Manchester United by a score of 1-0 at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon. After an exciting first five minutes, a Marcus Rashford penalty gave United the only goal of the match as neither side looked especially like scoring over the like 80+ minutes of play.

Manager Brendan Rodgers finally got a complete performance from the Foxes against Bournemouth, so he completely changed the personnel and formation for the visit to Old Trafford. Leicester lined up in a 4-1-4-1 with Kasper Schmeichel in goal behind a back line of Ricardo Pereira, Çağlar Söyüncü, Jonny Evans, and Ben Chilwell. Wilfred Ndidi slotted in behind a midfield four of Demarai Gray, Youri Tielemans, Hamza Choudhury, and James Maddison. Jamie Vardy plowed a lone furrow up top as the solitary striker.

Scheichel was called into action on only 3 minutes when Ricardo brought down Daniel James on the edge of the area. Andreas Pereira’s free kick was going to find the near corner, but Schmeichel got across well to push it to safety. Moments later, it was David De Gea who was forced to make a fine save when Maddison was gifted an opportunity in the six-yard box.

United took the lead on just 8 minutes when Söyüncü nudged Anthony Rashford in the box and Martin Atkinson determined it was a penalty. It was foolish of Söyüncü as Rashford was playing for contact all the way, but there wasn’t much in. Rashford took the penalty and, in spite of his customary silly run-up, sent Schmeichel the wrong way and gave United an early lead.

The pace of the match slowed after the penalty as both sides struggled to string passes together and impose themselves on the match. Leicester forced a series of corners, but Maddison’s deliveries failed to find blue shirts although one clearance did fall to Chilwell, whose dipping drive forced a decent save from De Gea.

The big problem with the pace of the match was the frequency with which Atkinson was blowing his whistle. If he wasn’t stopping play for a dubious foul, he was stopping it when another referee might have played advantage. Two Leicester attacks were stopped cold, not by the United defense, but by Atkinson blowing his whistle without any obvious need to do so.

Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League
Sure to be featured in next week’s “Caption This Photo” contest. That’s a thing, isn’t it?
Photo by Gary Prior/Getty Images

Things just sort of petered out at the end of the half. The Sting had gone out of the match, as had the Stewart Copeland and the Andy Summers. Leicester probably ended the half on top, but neither side looked especially threatening as the two minutes of time added on ticked off and Mr. Atkinson had yet another opportunity to blow his whistle.

Both managers kept their starting XI intact to start the second half, which kicked of much like the first. City were the first to go close when Vardy turned Harry Maguire inside out on the right side of the area but no blue shirts were on hand to meet the striker’s low ball across the face of the goal. United had an opportunity moments later when Daniel James got past Ricardo and drove across the edge of the area and blasted his shot just over the bar.

Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League
When there’s not much action to describe, a Hamza Choudhury photo is the next best thing.
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Rodgers made his first change on 55’, withdrawing Choudhury in favor of Ayoze Perez, allowing Maddison to occupy his preferred central position. This marked the start of a period of extended Leicester possession if not precisely pressure. The second change came ten minutes later with Harvey Barnes replacing Demarai Gray in a like-for-like swap.

To be honest, there wasn’t a great deal to describe over the next 20 minutes. Leicester had all of the possession, but carried the majority of the threat when trying to hit the Foxes on the break. Rashford went close to sealing the three points with a brilliant free kick from distance that struck the crossbar. After that, it was time to throw everything forward. A long free kick found Evans unmarked, but nothing came of it.

Four minutes of time were added on and we got to see just about everything but a goal. Schmeichel came up for a corner with 3 minutes remaining but it came to nothing. A scrum in the box saw the ball fall to Ndidi who struck his half-volley sweetly but put the shot just wide of the target. There was some shoving in the Leicester end when McTominey put the ball out of bounds and then refused to give the ball up for the Leicester throw. It was literally everything but good football.

It is really hard to say that Leicester deserved three points from that performance, so I won’t say it. On the other hand, the same was equally true of Manchester United. It was a poor game of football that was decided by one soft penalty. It was a rare case of a foul that absolutely wouldn’t have been called anywhere else on the pitch, but, sing after me: “You’ve seen them given.”

Did we ever look like scoring? No, not really. Solskjaer’s game plan of defending deep and trying to hit the visitors on the break frustrated the Foxes, who never got into any kind of rhythm. You’d think having 58% of the possession at Old Trafford would make for a decent result, but you’d think wrong in this case.

More tweets like this and I’m out of a job. This is spot-on.

No one really stood out today for me. I don’t envy Michael doing the player ratings. You could argue that we weren’t set up for success with Madders out on the wing and Choudhury in an advance position, and you’d win that argument because Rodgers was just out-managed.

The defeat leaves Leicester on 8 points through 5 matches and drops us down to 5th on the table. Our next match is in one week, hosting Tottenham Hotspur at the King Power and then it’s off to Bedfordshire to face Luton Town in the League Cup.