A clean sheet
Clean sheets have become increasingly rare for United, with just one in 19 league and cup games before Saturday. Few would have backed this defence to shut out the dangerous Leicester attack, but that is exactly what they did.
It was backs to the wall stuff at times but it might just be the kind of defensive performance that builds resilience and confidence. They had to get through a lot of work, especially in the second half, but Leicester were restricted to half chances, despite all the pressure they exerted on United.
There were also encouraging signs for David de Gea, who made a vital save with his feet to deny James Maddison just before United took the lead, and then produced an acrobatic save from Ben Chilwell’s dipping volley just before half-time. This was much more like the assured De Gea we have come to expect.
The fact he only really had to make two saves is testament to the defence in front of him, who worked tirelessly to keep Leicester out. Harry Maguire, given plenty of stick from the away end, had a couple of nervy moments against Jamie Vardy but generally defended well against one of the Premier League’s in-form defenders, while this was the Victor Lindelof of last season rather than the shaky Swede that has begun this campaign.
Manchester United vs Leicester reaction
United won the battle out wide as well. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was once again exemplary, while Ashley Young was an assured presence at left-back.
The absence of Paul Pogba from the United teamsheet really exposed the lack of options for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the moment, with a trio of Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Juan Mata looking a little one-paced.
While McTominay is all action, Matic and Mata are hardly bringing the pace to the game that Solskjaer so demands. Mata is a great creative option, but needs the game played to his pace.
After a bright start United gradually lost the midfield battle, with Fred making his first appearance of the season in the second half. United’s failure to sign a midfielder this summer looked a risk at the time and if Pogba is forced to miss any more games it will continue to be exposed.
Solskjaer might be forced into the transfer market in January to strengthen that area of his side. They got away with this one thanks to a fine defensive rearguard, but you wouldn’t back that midfield to prove the difference in many games this season.
There was plenty of frustration amongst supporters when Mason Greenwood was only named on the bench and in the end the 17-year-old didn’t even take his tracksuit off against the Foxes, with Tahith Chong preferred as the attacking change instead.
Andreas Pereira was a disappointment on the right wing against Southampton and this was another relatively anonymous performance from him, struggling to influence the game from a position he doesn’t look comfortable in.
Depending on how long Anthony Martial is out for, surely Greenwood’s opportunity to start a league game this season can’t be far away.
The top six
This was supposed to be the season that the top six cartel was broken up. United and Chelsea are vulnerable, was the perceived wisdom, with Leicester and Wolves primed to usurp them.
So the fourth Saturday of the Premier League season seemed like a good time to put that theory to the test. In the end United and Chelsea can perhaps breath a little easier for a while, these results suggests the established sides should still have enough about them over the course of a season.
While Chelsea ran riot at Molineux United were determined victors against the Foxes. So many people had tipped United to struggle here that it felt like it would be a surprise if United won, especially when the teamsheet dropped. But win they did. This could be a big result in the course of their season, reinjecting some confidence into the side.
The absence of Pogba at least saved us from a debate over who was taking United’s penalties today. The first half spot kick was well won by Rashford, displaying his pace to get in front of Soyuncu, who had no idea he was coming, and then anticipating the contact.
Perhaps the absence of uncertainty over the penalty helped Rashford, who stepped up calmly and cooly sent Kasper Schmeichel the wrong way. Given the number of penalties United have been getting under Solskjaer (this was the 12th in 34 games), he can expect more chances from 12 yards this season.