Leicester City put up a brave fight and were solid up until Marcus Rashford came off the bench and scored within two minutes of being on the pitch, before fellow substitute Marouane Fellaini wrapped up the three points a few minutes later.
In the end, Leicester were lucky to have lost by only two, after Juan Mata had a goal that was wrongly disallowed and Romelu Lukaku missed a penalty.
Here are the five talking points from the encounter at Old Trafford:
5. Martial fails to impress, while Rashford proves crucial once more
After his magnificent performances off the bench in United’s first two Premier League games, where he came on for Marcus Rashford and scored on both occasions, many expected Anthony Martial to start today’s game against Leicester City, and they were proved right. The surprise? It was Rashford who was benched, not Juan Mata. Make no mistake, Mata has been brilliant so far, but one can be forgiven for feeling that the pairing of Rashford and Martial would offer a lot more pace and cutting edge going forward.
Either way, this was Martial’s chance to make his point as to why he should be trusted to start week-in, week-out, but he simply didn’t take it. Barring a few neat touches and crosses into the box here and there, this was a quiet performance from the talented Frenchman. He lacked the work rate and attacking flair that made Rashford one of the standout performers against West Ham and Swansea City. Here against Leicester too, the moment the Englishman came on for Mata, he made an instant impact, scoring the opener after just a minute of being on the pitch. He looked more hungry, and it instantly brought more excitement and desire to United’s game.
Martial will hope Mourinho is more forgiving and gives him another chance, but on this evidence, it looks like Rashford will be back in the starting eleven for the trip to Stoke City on the 9th of September.
4. Mata’s wrongly ruled out goal
Would have been the turning point of this match alongside Lukaku’s missed penalty had it not been for the divine intervention of Rashford less than 200 seconds after coming on. Last week, Alexandre Lacazette fell victim to a terrible refereeing decision that ultimately cost Arsenal the match as they went down to a 1-0 defeat against United’s next opponents. Olivier Giroud had played a lovely through ball to the French striker, who ran through and smashed it into the top corner, only to see that the goal had been ruled out for offside. Replays showed that Lacazette was clearly onside, and the Gunners should have had their equalizer.
Mata suffered from a similar case of poor refereeing here, but lucky for United that it didn’t end up costing them the three points. Romelu Lukaku found some space on the edge of the area and unleashed a low drive that Kasper Schmeichel could only manage to parry away into the path of Mata, who coolly slotted the ball into the back of the net. However, the goal was ruled out after the assistant referee deemed the Spaniard to have been in an offside position, even though he clearly wasn’t.
United did get lucky later on though, as Marouane Fellaini’s goal was given despite the Belgian being in an offside position. The reason the midfielder’s goal was given was because the ball had struck Wes Morgan, who apparently made a deliberate attempt to play the ball while trying to block Jesse Lingard’s shot. It’s fair to say that the decision could have gone either way.
3. Leicester relying too heavily on counter-attacking football
Leicester came into this game in sublime form, with one win in two games, which included a magnificent performance in the 4-3 defeat to Arsenal on opening day. They looked like the confident title-winning team of two years ago, who were ready to take on anyone who came their way.
None of that attacking intent was displayed here whatsoever, though. The Foxes were pegged back for almost the entirety of the game, and it seemed like the only option available to them was to hope that United slipped up so that Drinkwater or Albrighton could then slip a ball through to Jamie Vardy and hope that he would find a way through. There was no purpose, no desire, and they were lucky to have held on for so long without conceding. Poor sight to see.
2. Kasper Schmeichel’s heroics and Leicester’s ‘Blue Wall’
Had it not been for Rashford and Fellaini’s goals, this would easily have been the first point on this list. For all their sluggishness up front, Leicester were remarkably astute at the back. United had them pegged back for most of this game, but the defense put in a magnificent shift and did everything to cut off the threat of Martial and Mkhitaryan. New signing Harry Maguire once again proved why he will be such a key man for the Foxes this season, and was brilliant here once more. However, it is fair to say that the only reason the scoreline wasn’t an embarrassing one was thanks to the spectacular Kasper Schmeichel.
The Schmeichels are adored at Old Trafford owing to Peter Schmeichel’s legacy with the club, and had David de Gea left for Real Madrid, the United faithful would probably have seen the next generation of the Great Dane take his place between the sticks. 30-year-old Kasper was immaculate at the Theatre of Dreams, saving Romelu Lukaku’s penalty and making a terrific save in the first half to deny Mata. He marshaled the line in front of him superbly well, knew when to come out of his box to block out potential counter attacks, and was probably the only reason his side weren’t trailing at half-time. By far Leicester’s best player on the day.
Fun fact: Kasper has now saved more penalties at Old Trafford than his dad did in his entire career, despite the latter having played for United.
1. Mourinho’s magical substitutions
It appears to have become a theme of late, but Jose Mourinho has been spot on with his substitutions in United’s opening three Premier League games. The Reds were 1-0 up against West Ham when Martial and Fellaini came on. Few minutes later, they scored three in quick succession, with Martial grabbing one of the goals. A similar series of events occurred at Swansea, with the same pair coming on once more and Martial scoring yet again. Today, with Martial having started the game, it was Rashford who was brought on alongside Fellaini, and United scored two goals right away, with both substitutes grabbing the goals.
It could be said that they were masterstrokes from Mourinho, but it also just goes to show the depth of his squad at the moment, and the quality of the options at his disposal. Compare that to last season, where the Portuguese boss constantly complained about a lack of world-class ability amongst his ranks, and you can imagine how much he must be buzzing this summer after a summer that has seen him secure three out of the four targets he was desperate to bring in. Having added that missing quality, and with the whole squad working with and for each other, they genuinely look like title contenders this season.
Manchester United fan, Wayne Rooney is his role model. Passionate writer who has written for several sites in the past. He’s also an aspiring pianist and creates background music for BlameFootball’s Youtube channel.