Manchester United: Predicted starting team vs Leicester City; De Gea, Rafael, Rojo, Blind, Shaw, Herrera, Mata, Di Maria, Rooney, Falcao, van Persie.
Leicester City v Manchester United
Barclays Premier League
King Power Stadium
Sunday 21st September 2014
Kick-Off 1.30 pm BST
Match Officials: REFEREE; M. Clattenburg, ASST REF 1; S. Beck, ASST REF 2; J. Collins, 4TH OFFICIAL; L. Mason.
Previous Meetings all competitions: P 117, W 59, D 26, L 32, F 234, A 156.
Premier League: P 16, W 11, D 4, L 1, F 35, A 10.
Current Form: Leicester City; W, D, L, D.
Current Form: Manchester United; W, D, D, L.
Top League Scorers Last Season.
Leicester City: Nugent 20, Vardy 16, Dyer 7, Drinkwater 7, Knockaert 5.
Manchester United: Rooney 17, van Persie 12, Welbeck 9, Mata 6, Hernandez 4.
Top League Scorers this season.
Leicester City: Ulloa 3, Wood 1.
Manchester United: Mata 2, Rooney 2, Di Maria 1.
Leicester City; Schmeichel, Knee Injury (in training) M Upson, Ankle/Foot injury (no return date) Bakayogo, Cruciate knee ligament injury (no return date).
Manchester United; Wilson, Knock (no return date) Young, Knock (no return date) Jones, Hamstring injury (5th of Oct) Smalling, Groin/Pelvis ( back in training) Fellaini, Ankle/Foot (20th Oct) Lingard, Knee Injury (no return date) Carrick, Ankle/Foot ( 5th of Oct).
We last played Leicester City in season 2003/04, winning both matches, 4-1 at the then named Walkers Stadium, van Nistelrooy bagging a hat-trick and Roy Keane the goal scorers on September 2003. The last time we met the Foxes was in April 2004 registering a 1-0 victory courtesy of a Gary Neville goal. United going 0n that season to finish 3rd in the FA Premiership table 15 points behind the league winners Arsenal’s invincibles. Unfortunately for Sunday’s challengers Leicester City they were relegated in 18th position in the table on 37 points, along with Leeds United (19th) and Wolves (20th).
There are several familiar names to Manchester United in Leicester City’s current makeup to be aware of, following in the Great Danes foot-steps if fit, we may see Kasper Schmeichel. Ritchie De Laet, the 25 year old Belgian full back made 6 starts for the Red Devils, signing for Leicester City in 2012 along with 23 year old midfielder Matty James. The Foxes boss Nigel Pearson commenting at the time “Both are hungry young players with winning mentalities, they will add considerable quality to the squad.”
Former Manchester United trainee 24 year old Danny Drinkwater was named as Leicester City’s player of the season and was the pulse in their midfield, averaging more passes per game than any other player in the Championship as he aided the Foxes to drive on to win the title. Drinkwater notably also featured in the Championship team of the year, and scored their Goal Of The Season a screamer against Watford in February 2014.
Tom Lawrence also may feature for Leicester City the last minute £1m signing by Nigel Pearson, they have a incredible young talent, high hopes were held by many at Manchester United for Lawrence and we wish the 20 year old success after the Welshman’s 12 year association with United.
Leicester have also secured the loan signing of United’s midfield dynamo Nick Powell as the ex Crewe Alexandria youngster aims to get his career on track at the King Power Stadium. The 20 year old being afforded limited opportunities to perform at Manchester United, 7 appearances in all competitions, 2 in the league returning 1 goal. Powell proving his worth at Wigan Athletic in 42 appearances in midfield netting 12 goals, as he will likely repeat that level of form at Leicester City with game time.
The Foxes also signing on a free transfer after his unexpected release from United, Jack Barmby son of the famous Nick.The 19 year old is not likely to feature in Nigel Pearson’s first team this campaign but if his performance with Hartlepool in League Division Two is replicated, give it time and we will see more of Nick Barmby.
The Foxes have had a stern test back in the Premiership for the first time in a decade, sitting 12th in the table, drawing at home 2-2 with Everton, losing to current league leaders Chelsea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge with a significant 1-1 draw at home against Arsenal. Manchester United facing a side that does not look as if it lacks belief or out of place in the Premiership registering on their last outing a morale boosting 1-0 victory over Mark Hughes’ Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium. Leicester City’s £8m record transfer signing from Brighton, Leonardo Ulloa continuing to be a predator netting the winner, the Foxes first top-flight win since May 2004. Nigel Pearson praising his summer signing “to do well in any division you have to score goals and for Ulloa to get three already is great for him. He is very popular among the players and he has settled in very well and is delivering at the moment. The more experience the players get in this division the better, and the better I can see us performing, but there is a long way to go.”
Leicester City have also added to their engine room the fabulous ex Inter Milan, robust 34 year old Esteban Cambiasso on a free transfer to add to their midfield bringing maturity silky touches and a level of steel, with 20 club winners medals to verify the Argentine International’s pedigree now on display at the King Power Stadium.
Leicester City also signing this summer one of the best crossers of a ball in the league, Marc Albrighton from Aston Villa on a free transfer also, in addition bringing in the Wiley experienced fox 35 year old Mathew Upson from Brighton on a free.
Leicester City displaying a frugal cautious approach to player investment spending the 11th most in the Premiership £12.2m having in the past appeared to not spend their cash wisely. Pearson having addressed this key management function, with a slowly – slowly stealth strategy, with the balance of youth and time served professionals his blueprint for long-term sustainability with a realism in budget control.
Leicester City’s key central midfield players last campaign, Drinkwater, Matty James, Anthony Knockaert and Riyad Mahrez have an average age of less than 23 years old. The Algerian – Frenchman, Mahrez particularly one to monitor carefully, speed on the ball, with excellent technique and the ability to turn on the after burners and magic with unpredictable skills.
Leicester City won the most penalties in all the top four leagues in English football an incredible 14. Clearly displaying the Foxes do operate in the oppositions 18 yard box a high % of the time. Jamie Vardy with his lightening pace winning 6 of his sides spot kicks, highlighting that Leicester can and will drive for the jugular killer area.
However one of Leicester City’s weak areas is defending the dead ball delivery, 21 of the 43 goals the Foxes conceded last season was from that area in their defensive set up, a open invitation – for Di Maria?
Leicester City gaffer Nigel Pearson said after his charges first win of the season against Stoke City “When you play sides like Manchester United there is going to be the huge expectation, and I think it is great that the players look forward to games like this.
After the first four games the players performances have suggested for the most part we have the capability to improve and do okay. There are always a lot of positives to reflect on. We can look forward to the weekend’s game. We will look at the strengths and weaknesses, and will be trying to find the best way to play to give us a chance of winning the game.”
On the back of our scintillating performance against Queens Park Rangers, albeit it was against a team United should be thumping, and the players did deliver, one swallow however does not a summer or League Title challenge make. But it was a fantastic 4-0 result a building block with our team playing fast counter attacking possession football. Angel Di Maria earning the plaudits and the Man Of The Match accolade causing us United supporters to get of our seats in anticipation of what he can do, will do. Di Maria is mesmerising the 59million volts of pace that the club have eagerly needed. Angel Di Maria, United’s £59.7m Argentinian summer signing enthusing post-match after grabbing a goal and an important assist shared “I wished very much for the day of my debut at Old Trafford and I did in the best way scoring a goal” the 26 year old saying further “the happiness is enormous.” Echoed by Red’s throughout the World!
Tyler Blackett also grew further into his role in the centre of defence, calm and composed with first class distribution almost Rio Ferdinand in style, class and more aggressive in the tackle than Ferdinand. One tough defender a must watch Blackett to develop at United, a high point, just brilliant.
As is often the case with football the goal scorers earn the glory and often there are unsung heroes, Daley Blind on his United debut was commandingly assured, as to be expected with a Dutch footballer technically top drawer linking up with Ander Herrera and stemming QPR’s attacks completing in excess of 100 successful passes, a fantastic first match for United’s No 17.
Blind demonstrating he is totally singing from the united song-sheet a brother in arms with Louis van Gaal commentating on the United manager who he has worked with at International level “He is very honest to everybody. He knows what he wants and he knows his philosophy. He can bring that to the players and he can make a team with everybody in. That is a good start for everybody if you want to work for each other. I have really learned a lot from Van Gaal and I like working under him. He is not frightening he is just honest. That can be frightening, but I like that.”
The quandary for Louis van Gaal as he takes his tentative steps at United is how to fit all the big signings the club have made into a functioning team, balancing and providing all the Stars game time. The backdrop of course retaining an eye on the Red Devils youth policy. Finding the solution how to merge Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria into the teams structure is a great problem for the Dutchman but a puzzle it is for the manager, with Rooney and van Persie vying also for starting berths. In parallel within the jigsaw lays how Van Gaal sets the United defence out, still it would appear United’s Achilles heel, as well as developing a system that utilizes the star players in the attack.
In time we should see a settled 3-4-1-2 on the return of Michael Carrick partnering Daley Blind both technically excellent with the shrewdness of Ander Herrera offering further defensive protection. However with the departures of Welbeck, Lawrence, Powell and Cleverley at the last minute of transfer deadline day, it magnifies the magnitude of the task for a youngster to break into the First X1 and consolidate a starting spot.
Hopefully once the boss restores the confidence at our club, he can provide opportunities in the FA Cup to James Wilson, and most definitely we need to see more of Adnan Januzaj to trust the youth policy at the club has not evaporated for short term (but much needed) solutions – gain.
Wayne Rooney is currently on 175 Premier League goals, equalling Thierry Henry in the 3rd place in the all time Barclays Premier League Top Goal Scorers. Leading the pack is Alan Shearer on 260, and in 2nd place Andrew Cole on 187 strikes. United’s captain having made 378 appearances providing 86 assists. Robin van Persie still looks some way short of match fitness and the clinical way in which he completes his finishing in front of goal as we saw against QPR when Di Maria’s through ball was not brought under control by the talismanic Dutchman. This is one of the big calls, that Louis van Gaal is going to have to make on Sunday, persist with RVP until his world class form returns or opt for Radamel Falcao who as we know is deadly in the 18 yard box. It’s truly a wonderful selection problem the manager has in Manchester United’s striking options.
However against Leicester City the boss should field his strongest starting X1 to continue to build some momentum and return the habit of winning to the club. While the foundation feel good factor was started with the 4-0 victory against QPR simply a building block only, as we know much stiffer tests are on the horizon. A confident victory on Sunday at the King Power Stadium will add more belief that Manchester United are on the road to recovery, but take nothing for granted in this league, the Foxes will not turn out to make up the numbers.
Score Prediction: Leicester City 1 – 3 Manchester United.