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Five things we learned from Leicester v Manchester United

A perfect example of cohesive teamwork overcoming talented individuals

Leicester City v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

1) This was the performance we all believed we’re capable of but we just hadn’t seen yet

Quoting yourself always feels a little bit of an ego trip, but I have been saying that if we could just get ourselves more organised and cut out some of the more silly mistakes, we could deal some real damage to a side. It’s pretty typical Leicester City fashion that the side we chose to do that against was Manchester United. Beating them is always enjoyable (for righting various childhood memories) but even more so when we categorically deserved it. United should just be grateful that they had David De Gea in goal, or a 4-2 scoreline may not have been so flattering.

This would have been an excellent, ‘it had it all’ game for a neutral. As a fan, it was both exciting, exhilarating and slightly stressful in moments. The quality of the goals were generally excellent coupled with some interesting defending. Mason Greenwood’s effort may well have been the best on a different day before Tielemans and Vardy both decided that they’d score excellent, first time efforts. It’s less of a surprise to have Jamie Vardy on the scoresheet, he loves playing these bigger sides but this should go down as his best yet against Manchester United. So good that we didn’t even troll them with his goal celebration.

Most pleasing perhaps was how we reacted to going one-nil down, then when Marcus Rashford levelled the game to 2-2. Rather than heads dropping or us falling apart, we looked a healthy kind of frustrated. We finally played to our own strengths, brought back the pressing and dogged play that gets a home crowd behind you.

It may have taken until mid-October to finally get an end to end great performance from the Foxes, but it was worth the wait. It finally all came together and every single player deserves a good rating. The odds were on this happening eventually, statistics showing the number of touches in opposition boxes versus actual goals scored suggested we had this coming. With a big couple of weeks ahead too, it’s perfect timing for us to put together a string of results after an odd start to the season.

2) Kasper Schmeichel comment is on the fans’ wavelength as Brendan Rodgers nails the tactics

It feels like Kasper so often gets put on media duty when we’ve had a difficult game or a loss that it’s actually a pleasure to have him doing the interview when we’ve won. His comment of ‘playing a formation that suits us’ was music to every Leicester fans’ ears too given that this formation is more akin to the preferred formations that fans put together and ask for. People have been quick to point out all of the things they feel Rodgers hasn’t got right this season from starting lineups, to formations, to substitutes and the time it’s taken to make them. It’s only fair then to lump praise on him after this. Tactical perfection from start to finish.

In true giving the people what they want mode, we got Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho starting together. It came at the expense of Harvey Barnes, though he’s been more effort than output as his recovery to playing every week continues. It provides much more support for Vardy and that extra outlet seems to compliment our midfielders too. Iheanacho may not have got a goal this time, but he was instrumental in the Tielemans goal to level the game at 1-1, capitalising on a sluggish Harry Maguire, easily dispossessing him. Poor defending was a theme for those in red shirts, but make no mistake in thinking that’s the only reason the Foxes won.

Rodgers, and Leicester generally, seem to have the perfect set-up for dismantling the so called big six (perhaps Manchester City aside) and it played out to perfection. Something that’s been lacking in all of our games so far is balance and cohesion. At least two areas of the pitch have been letting us down week in, week out. This squad selection and the formation seemed to right all of those wrongs. The substitutions came at the right time and felt like the perfect personnel.

Some are disappointed not to have seen more of Patson Daka, but it seems pretty clear that we’re not going to just throw him in at the deep end while he’s still adjusting. The Europa League displays make more sense given it’s a familiar competition with familiar opposition. His cameo, like Ayoze Perez’s, was the right move at the right time. Daka was pretty tireless too with trying to make things happen. His first goal ended up being the easiest, oddest chance of the lot but it’s been a long time coming for the first Zambian Premier League goalscorer. His goal may have been the least showy of the four, but it was great awareness to round the static Maguire and he showed clever, quick feet to slot it away. Rodgers got his reward for believing in this squad.

3) A flawless midfield performance spear-headed by Youri Tielemans and Boubakary Soumare

Youri Tielemans is the new Riyad Mahrez for me; it’s incredibly hard to be annoyed with him or sustain that. While Tielemans has struggled for form this season, one can only put it down to our general issues and possibly the lack of time off the guy has, this was his match. A worthy Man of the Match, he played the United midfield and defence like a world class violinist. And best of all? He looked incredibly happy and committed, despite the ongoing contract saga. His shot that hit the post and prevented a second wonder-goal? He was laughing about it. That is a player absolutely in his element and generally when he’s this good, we look good.

Not content with having one goal that continues to look better with every viewing (his FA Cup winning goal), Youri decided to add another. I’m sure if you’re a United fan, it’s easier to convince yourself that he was attempting a cross and got lucky. Watching his face and that first touch hit, he definitely meant it. And boy was it stunning, looping right over De Gea’s head. Get both goals on a looped video for when we need to pacify ourselves next.

The Manchester United players were far too content to give Tielemans as much time and space as he felt necessary, but he also won the ball back on multiple occasions, biting at their midfield’s feet and deploying the ball here, there and everywhere. Our record without Wilfred Ndidi is undeniably poor, but this was a very rare game where we didn’t miss him. Credit there to Boubakary Soumare, not a straight-up cover but putting in his best performance so far.

The future is now if you ask me.

Soumare’s quality, and rather fun turn of pace, have shown in bursts so far for Leicester rather than across a full game. That’s not a poor reflection on the midfielder; he’s young, adapting to a new country and league and our own general form has been lacking. It looked clear though that he could be another deputy for Tielemans if needed and has qualities from both of our central midfielders. Similar to his Belgian partner, Soumare was seemingly more than United could handle. His composure on the ball and movement off the ball was exactly what we needed and freed Tielemans up to do more of the creative maestro role.

4) The Jonny Evans effect is now undeniable, let the cloning work commence

While the international break offered a chance to hit the reset button for everybody at the club, none may have been happier to get there than Çağlar Söyüncü. It was another week for us to get Jonny Evans rehabilitated and hope that the break didn’t result in fresh injuries. We weren’t entirely lucky there, but by our standards it could have been much worse. Daniel Amartey may not have been the obvious starting choice in a back three had it not been for Yannik Vestergaard picking up a knock.

Amartey put in an excellent shift, as did our entire defense. This was our most composed and balanced defensive display thus far. The only obvious change, or difference (ignoring tactics and us seemingly looking better against big sides) was Evans returning to the side. Everything just ticks when he’s there. It’s not just his own defensive traits, but a calmness that seems to wash over the others. It’s no coincidence that with him on the pitch we get the Söyüncü of old, that Kasper Schmeichel seems more trusting of his defenders too. Ok, we didn’t get a clean sheet, but generally we left them to be optimistic and wasteful with the chances they did carve out.

A word though for our wing-backs. Sure, Timothy Castagne is likely still a caretaker in the left-back role, it’s impossible not to imagine James Justin slotting straight back in there when fully fit again, but he put in the best shift we’ve seen in that left-back position all season. He also looked equally adept with how it played out with a back three behind him. Castagne’s shift wasn’t an easy one on paper either, tasked with dealing with the threat of Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes who wandered into his area frequently.

There’s an incredibly likeable quality within Castagne that will always get Foxes fans on side, his aggression and pressing. Akin to Vardy in his determination to win the ball back and hassle the opposition. Something that certainly the likes of Fernandes are not going to want to be a part of. Ricardo Pereira on the right was possibly even better than the Belgian. It feels unfair not to see his name even notching an assist to reward his efforts, but he was tenacious against United.

5) The best from James Maddison yet but Ayoze Perez steals the glory with two assists in ten minutes

If ever there was a game that needed James Maddison to recapture his form, it was this one. For all of Manchester United’s quality in their attacking play, they’re blatantly vulnerable and, at times, inept at the back. We needed the Maddison of early 2020/21, or earlier. The good news for everybody is that we saw more of this Maddison; he had a bright start and it was great to see him getting involved defensively too, one particular instance early into the second half was impressive. It’s a step in the right direction and rewards Rodgers for his ongoing belief in Maddison.

One has to feel a little sorry for him then that his best performance yet will be quickly forgotten by some fans. Ayoze Perez came on to mostly applause but there was some booing. I can only hope fans who sat next to those people took a lot of pleasure in pointing out both assists that came in the ensuing ten minutes and especially the second for Vardy’s goal, which was sublime. As far as substitution impact goes, it doesn’t get much better than that. I understand why some are reserved in their opinion, he may not always look like he’s trying as hard as he actually is, and his end product doesn’t always deliver, but him being preferred to the more attacking-centric Barnes made sense. We had to be mindful of the United attack despite us pushing on.

Perez is likely to have earnt himself more game time with the midweek trip to Moscow, it’ll be interesting to see if he can capitalise on his seventeen minutes. One of the biggest challenges he’s faced with us is maintaining this type of form in consecutive games.