Leicester vs Manchester United: Five things we learned as Red Devils suffer damaging defeat in thriller

Leicester 4-2 Manchester United: The visitors unbeaten away run in the Premier League comes to an end at 29 matches

Jamie Braidwood
Saturday 16 October 2021 17:23

Manchester United slipped to a damaging defeat to Leicester who scored two late goals to seal a thrilling 4-2 win in the Premier League.

Mason Greenwood opened the scoring with a stunning strike from the angle of the box that arrowed into the top corner but it was cancelled out by another moment of magic when Youri Tielemans floated a remarkable shot over David de Gea in an entertaining first half at the King Power.

Tielemans was denied a second after De Gea tipped his placed shot around the post as Leicester increased the pressure. The Manchester United goalkeeper was called into action again to deny Patson Daka following a corner but Caglar Soyuncu was there to scramble in the rebound.

Marcus Rashford briefly equalised on his return from injury but Jamie Vardy produced an emphatic finish just 15 seconds after the restart to restore Leicester’s lead in the 83rd minute. Daka then scored Leicester’s fourth from close range in stoppage.

Here are five things we learned.

Pressure mounts on Solskjaer after damaging defeat

Just when Manchester United looked like they were about to pull themselves out of trouble late on once again under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, they conspired to shoot themselves in the foot as they fell to their fourth defeat in seven matches. Rashford’s equaliser on his return from injury had given United hope but that was extinguished just 15 seconds from the restart with Vardy’s winner. Daka’s tap in, Leicester’s second goal from a corner, was a further blow and completed United’s collapse.

This was United’s first away defeat in the Premier League in 29 matches, but what a significant one it could be. United’s unbeaten away run had been characterised by late goals covering up unconvincing performances and this defeat to Leicester had been coming. It also couldn’t arrive at a worst time, given United’s run of fixtures which sees them play a crucial double header against Atalanta in the Champions League as well as matches against Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City in the Premier League.

Ronaldo frustrated in United’s misfiring attack

Apart from Mason Greenwood, there is little to like about Manchester United’s attack at the moment. Just like in the previous two Premier League matches (the defeat to Aston Villa and the draw to Everton), United struggled to sustain attacks and Cristiano Ronaldo received little service and was unable to produce anything of his own. Jadon Sancho disappointed once again on the left wing and the England winger is still yet to complete 90 minutes in the Premier League after he was brought off for the returning Marcus Rashford. Bruno Fernandes was not nearly as influential as usual, which drastically impacted United’s attacking play.

Of course, it is too simplistic to say that United’s attack was misfiring because of a couple of poor performances in their forward line. The overall structure of the team and its midfield is a decisive factor too. Against Leicester, United were continually overrun and they struggled to cope with the pressure they were under. The return of Rashford is a boost, but United’s problems suggest they won’t be fixed completely by one attacking player.

Maguire struggles on terrible Leicester return

Harry Maguire endured a difficult afternoon on his return to the King Power Stadium. Not only was the Manchester United captain back at his former club in front of the home fans for the first time, who did not give him a warm welcome, but he was also returning to the starting team following a three-week injury lay-off. The inclusion of Maguire was a surprise but with Raphael Varane out, Solskjaer took the decision to put him straight back into his line-up.

It came at a cost, however. Maguire looked rusty even before his error that led to Leicester’s equaliser as he struggled to deal with Leicester’s press. The defender looked uncomfortable as he hacked the ball out of the pitch on a couple of occasions early on after being closed down by Iheanacho and he failed to settle from there. Tielemans’ strike was exquisite, and there was lots that the midfielder still had to do when the ball was rolled back to him in the box, but it came after Maguire was again caught by Iheanacho on the ball in the corner.

To make matters worse, Maguire then played Soyuncu onside for Leicester’s second goal and was conspicuous by his absence as the Foxes scored twice more late on to complete the 4-2 win. This was a bad day for United, and a terrible afternoon for Maguire.

Greenwood is United’s only bright spark

Mason Greenwood’s opening goal was illustrative of his start to the season and the confidence which is propelling the youngster's burgeoning career.

Of all of the attacking wide options available to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Greenwood is in the best form and has been rewarded with a consistent run of starts in the Premier League. That has in turn bolstered his self belief, which could be seen as he rifled in an unstoppable shot to open the scoring. Players who are unsure of their position in the team rarely attempt shots from those angles and positions and are often short of the confidence required to execute the technique. Furthermore, with Cristiano Ronaldo waiting in the middle, it was impressive to see Greenwood back himself in that situation.

Greenwood’s strike had everything: power, swerve, placement, dip, and Kasper Schmeichel had no chance. Similarly, when Leicester watch it back, there won’t be any criticism over their defensive shape of positioning - the shot was just too good. While it’s only a matter of time until Greenwood is a regular England international, the decision to not include the 20-year-old in the squad for last week’s matches against Andorra and Hungary was a smart one and he certainly looked like he had benefitted from the break.

Leicester benefit from formation change

After trialling it out a couple of times in the Europa League and Carabao Cup, Brendan Rodgers switched to a 3-5-2 formation for this first time in the Premier League this campaign in a bid to turn his side’s fortunes around - and it produced a memorable victory that could kick start Leicester’s season. With Kelechi Iheanacho back up front alongside Jamie Vardy, following their productive partnership in the second half of last season, Leicester looked much more like the side that has challenged for the top four under Rodgers in each of the past two seasons.

Vardy and Iheanacho’s runs down the channels gave United problems are game, with Maguire and Lindelof being pulled out of position. It also produced an improved performance from James Madison, who has been below par so far this season but was able to pick the ball up in promising areas as he drifted from the left side of Leicester’s midfield three. On the other side, the excellent Tielemans was able to roam forward. Timothy Castagne and Ricardo Pereira offered Leicester width and overloads on the wings, with Castagne proving decisive in the move for Vardy’s winner.

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