Jose Mourinho was on a mission to silence the ‘football Einstein’s’ of the world, as Manchester United welcomed Leicester City to Old Trafford.
All eyes were on the team sheet to confirm rumours that Einstein’s theory of relativity did indeed include dropping Wayne Rooney, as the United skipper started from the substitutes bench. In his place was Juan Mata, who would operate in attacking midfield behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Other changes from last week’s 3-1 loss to Watford was Jesse Lingard’s inclusion for Anthony Martial, and Ander Herrera replaced Marouane Fellaini deeper in midfield. Daily Blind was also recalled to the side to play at left back, as United were without Luke Shaw.
For Leicester, it was the same line-up that put three past Burnley. Unfortunately for them, they could not replicate the result as they were torn to shreds by an inspired Manchester United side that scored four goals before half-time. United’s midfield dominated the contest, continually combining in triangles with intricate passes to leave Leicester chasing shadows. Although the style of play itself didn’t directly cause the goals, as they scored three from set-pieces, it was a world apart from any Manchester United performance we have seen so far this season and went a long way to securing the three points.
Here are the player ratings from the match:
David De Gea 2.5/5
A spectator in the first half, his side’s domination left him with nothing to do. Only beaten by an absolute stunner by Demarai Gray.
Antonio Valencia 2.5/5
A poor touch let Albrighton advance into the box from a wide position early on, but other than that was solid as he got forward with regularity.
Chris Smalling 3.5/5
Escaped the attention of Robert Huth to open the scoring from a corner. Looked solid in his new partnership with Eric Bailly.
Eric Bailly 3.5/5
Still shows signs of a little rashness in the tackle, but makes up for it with his speed and anticipation. Overall a good showing to contain Jamie Vardy, with the English striker being taken off at half-time.
Daily Blind 4.5/5
Played at left-back, showing his versatility, and completely shackled Mahrez. His opposite number often failed to track back when he advanced up the left flank, giving him time. Gets the credit for two assists from corners, as well as some quick, intelligent thinking to play in Mata from a corner in the build-up to Rashford’s goal. Man of the match.
Andre Herrera 3/5
Kept the midfield ticking with simple passing and moving, a disciplined outing. The 4-4-2 of Leicester was undone by the United midfield, as there was always a spare man in central areas, Herrera being one of the big beneficiaries of this.
Paul Pogba 4/5
Showed off his passing range and bossed the midfield. A delightful chip over the Leicester defence created a chance for Ibrahimovic, which he blazed over the bar. Will feel a whole lot better for the powerful header he scored, his first for the club, after proving too strong for Fuchs from a corner. This was the kind of performance United fans were expecting when they signed him.
Juan Mata 4/5
Looked comfortable in his natural number 10 position, roaming freely to find space. Got an assist for some quick movement and thinking from a corner, and took his goal well. His work-rate was on full show for all to see, which will be key to proving himself to Jose Mourinho.
Marcus Rashford 3/5
An energetic performance. Missed a one-on-one chance against Zieler after Ibrahimovic played him through, but was once again in the right place at the right time to score a poacher’s effort from a set-piece.
Jesse Lingard 2.5/5
Overall, his performance wont draw the headlines that Mata, Pogba and Blind will, but put in a shift crucial to the side’s pressing game. A nice first-touch to assist Juan Mata for United’s second goal.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic 3/5
No goal for the Swedish superstar, but threatened often with dangerous runs in behind the Leicester backline. Made a lovely pass with the outside of his boot to play in Rashford after a swift United counter-attack, but the teenager lost his composure. Attempted a few audacious shots at goal, including a turning chest and volley attempt after Pogba played him through. Spent some parts of the second half sitting deep in midfield.
Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick N/A
All introduced once the game was well and truly over.
Ron Zieler 2/5
Sympathy must be shown for a goalkeeper who was at little fault for all four goals. Did produce a nice save to keep out a 30-yard effort from Paul Pogba.
Danny Simpson 2.5/5
Left well isolated due to Riyad Mahrez’s lack of awareness in defensive phases. He was often outnumbered when Blind came forward with freedom.
Robert Huth 1.5/5
Beaten by Smalling from the corner and generally didn’t look anywhere near the level we were used to seeing him last season.
Wes Morgan 2/5
Did reasonably well in his tussle with Ibrahimovic, but it must be said that the striker ran in-behind the defence unmarked on a number of occasions.
Christian Fuchs 2/5
Got in some good positions to cross but failed to pick out a target. Was well beaten in the air by Pogba for his goal.
Marc Albrighton 2.5/5
Failed to capitalize on Valencia’s poor touch, with a better cross potentially squaring up Slimani for a simple finish. Worked hard, and a lot of Leicester’s play came through him.
Danny Drinkwater 3/5
Easily Leicester’s stand out player in a nightmare first half, buzzing all around the pitch to protect his defence with interceptions and blocks, whilst also moving the ball forward with quality.
Daniel Amartey 1.5/5
Switched off at a crucial time, as Mata sprinted past him to receive a pass from a corner to create a goal you will rarely see scored in top-flight football.
Riyad Mahrez 1/5
A very quiet afternoon for Mahrez, who did get a couple of early chances to run at an isolated Blind but couldn’t produce anything. Offered little cover to his full-back.
Islam Slimani 1/5
A poor performance. His touch abandoned him far too often as he failed to adjust to the pace of the game.
Jamie Vardy 2/5
Unlucky to be taken off at half-time, in a move that was more about Ranieri trying to prevent further humiliation by adding numbers in midfield rather than an acknowledgement of anything the striker did wrong.
Andy King 2.5/5
The extra body in midfield helped stop the onslaught from United in the second half.
Demarai Gray 3/5
Came on in the second half, replacing Jamie Vardy, and scored a goal of immense quality. Cut inside from the left flank, fought off the challenge of Lingard and unleashed a vicious strike from outside the box to find the top corner of De Gea’s net.
Jeffrey Schlupp 2.5/5
Had a few chances to run into space out wide, but couldn’t make much of an impact.