Pogba and Luke Shaw takes manchester United to a flying start of the season
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United parked the bus a little late for Mourinho’s liking – with the team coach arriving just an hour before kick-off after being stuck in the tea-time traffic. He will have cursed that one as another sign of preparations for this campaign going awry or conspiring against him but that fog of confusion could be lifted by events on the pitch once a ball was kicked.
Fortunately for United they were given that chance as they were gifted the lead. After just 77 seconds Alexis Sanchez drove in a shot that was blocked by Wes Morgan with the ball ricocheting up. Foolishly Daniel Amartey stuck out an arm to control it – he desperately claimed it came off his chest – but despite his lame protestations the handball was correctly given by referee Andre Marriner and United had their gift.
Pogba took the penalty and took one of the most bizarre run-ups – rather a slow tip-toe up – before side-footing the ball high into the corner of the net and above the dive of Kasper Schmeichel. It was the third successive season that Leicester had conceded the first Premier League goal; having also opened the last campaign on a Friday evening, away to Arsenal.
It was not a good start by either right-back, though. Although there was a sense of United dominating Leicester worked their way back into game and did so by remorsely targeting Matteo Darmian. Up against the pace of Demarai Gray and with Ben Chilwell charging forward from left-back – with England manager Gareth Southgate among the crowd – the Italian struggled. Badly. He was easily turned by Gray, out-stripped by Chilwell and United were indebted to two clearing headers from Pogba and Kelechi Iheanacho screwing the ball across goal although he was then flagged offside. It was a tight decision.
Leicester established territorial dominance. “Park the bus Man United,” the Leicester fans sarcastically chanted and although it was not quite that the home side were indebted to David De Gea when he saved superbly, and one-handed, to parry James Maddison’s fierce shot as the midfielder controlled the cut-back of another debutant, Ricardo Pereira.
The pressure grew and, maybe, Victor Lindelof was fortunate when he appeared to pull Iheanacho’s shirt inside the penalty area. Marriner waved play on but it only added to the sense that United had ceded the opportunity to maintain their early momentum.
They had to arrest that and seemed pricked into action as half-time approached with shots by Pogba and Luke Shaw which were easily dealt with by Schmeichel but it was Leicester – with Maddison, surely also impressing Southgate, standing out – providing the greater coherency.
It made for a curious though certainly entertaining encounter. Both teams seemed vulnerable which was no surprise, logically, given they were depleted and not fully up to speed with Marriner taking action against both Maddison and United’s new midfielder Fred after they kicked out at each other.
Substitutes were sent out to warm up. It became increasingly cagey; chances at a premium, passes falling short and with the frustration of Mourinho, in particular, beginning to grow. Leicester manager Claude Puel made his move with a double change, including Jamie Vardy who was not deemed fit enough to start the day after signing a new contract with the club while another new signing, Rachid Ghezzal, maybe even Riyad Mahrez’s replacement, also coming on. Positive moves although Maddison was unfortunate to be replaced even if United had began to dominate possession by now with Juan Mata’s side-footed shot being deflected wide after was teed up by Sanchez before Romelu Lukaku returned, replacing Rashford.
United recovered a bit of their composure towards the end of the half, but overall Jose Mourinho will be furious at the way his side have dropped in intensity since the early stages.
They’ll need to improve after the break or it’s tough to see them holding onto this lead.
Half-time: Man Utd 1 Leicester 0
42 min – Man Utd 1 Leicester 0
All of a sudden it’s a flurry of United attacks. Shaw gets forward from the left and volleys in a decent effort that Schmeichel holds onto. That would have been Shaw’s first ever goal in senior football.
41 min – Man Utd 1 Leicester 0
Fred dinks a lovely ball through to Alexis, whose header is well over. He is then erroneously flagged for offside. Great pass from the boy Fred.
40 min – Man Utd 1 Leicester 0
United finally mount an attack, but Pogba’s effort from range is weak and straight at Schmeichel.
37 min – Man Utd 1 Leicester 0
Iheanacho looks like he’s clean through on goal, but by the time he finally shrugs Lindelof off Bailly comes back to cover and make the
United just can’t get out at the moment, and the Maddison-Chillwell partnership is causing so many problems down the Leicester left. Mourinho has just told Rashford to move over to the United right to try and combat the threat.