Manchester United 4 City 1
Report by Chris Griffin
There was one glimmer of hope for much of the “Great Escape” season – nobody hammered us. Even when conceding four at White Hart Lane we scored three. But come September 2016 we have conceded four goals on the road in two consecutive matches and each time have been thoroughly beaten. The frustration from the trip to Old Trafford is that the players were the authors of their own downfall with woefully weak defending of corners.
Zieler remained in goal with Schmeichel still not fit. The media’s pre match chatter was more concerned with United’s omission of Rooney. On a perfect day for football, and with the Leicester section packed, City made a decent enough start. United looked a little edgy following the defeat at Watford, although their midfield three of Pogba, Mata and Herrera were clearly intent on upping the tempo.
But it was City whose probing led to possible openings. A good move down the left gave Albrighton time and space for a cross but his effort was too near to de Gea to the frustration of the unmarked Slimani. Fuchs was then put through down the left but his far post cross sailed over the heads of the strikers who had made near post runs. Another Fuchs run saw him reach the bye line and his pull back found Drinkwater whose shot was blocked by Valencia. The ball fell to Huth who shot over the bar.
City had made a good start and were well and truly in the game. Drinkwater was excellent and continued to be so despite the ensuing mayhem. But in the 21st minute the wheels came off.
A good United move down the City right flank saw Simpson concede a corner. Mata’s out swinger should really have been meat and drink to the City defence. Instead Smalling rose above Huth, Fuchs and Morgan and his strong downwards header was too quick for Zieler.
This galvanised the home team. Rashford was sent free on the right but shot wide. Ibrahimovic, combining well with Pogba, took the pass on his chest but volleyed over. Then Pogba sent in a fierce long-range shot which Zieler had to parry around the post.
Something had to give and it did in the 37th minute. Mata played the ball to Pogba who with one touch found Lingard in the penalty area. Lingard flicked the ball into the path of Mata who had continued his run and his low left foot drive gave Zieler no chance.
Three minutes later another corner for the home team. A clever move found City asleep. Blind rolled the corner along the bye line. Mata, totally unmarked, ran onto it and crossed, giving Rashford an easy tap in.
Two minutes later it was 4-0 after Pogba rose to head home another Blind corner.
City had been outrun and outpassed especially in midfield. City’s midfield two were outnumbered by United’s midfield three. Pogba, Herrera and Mata were having a field day with their quick passing and movement. The City defence was also finding Ibrahimovic tough to deal with. He frequently and cleverly dropped deep, losing his marker and supporting his midfielders and wide men in the build up. We never got to grips with this.
As a contest the game was over by half time. Ranieri’s substitutions confirmed this. No doubt with his mind on Tuesday’s match against Porto he took off Vardy and Mahrez. He also went for damage limitation by putting on King as an extra midfielder. Gray also went on, starting on the left but frequently switching flanks.
In terms of containment the strategy worked. Manchester United may have taken their foot off the gas a little because they knew it was job done, but Leicester were breaking up attacks more frequently and keeping possession better.
On the hour Leicester fans at last had something to cheer about. Amartey played a good ball out to Gray on the left. He cut inside two United players then drove a superb shot into the far corner of the net, beating De Gea all ends up. “5-4. We’re going to win 5-4,” sang the Leicester fans.
Slimani was ploughing a lone figure up front but provided a good target and worked hard. His involvement in a good move with Schlupp (on for Albrighton) saw the ball pulled back for King on the edge of the area. His shot was on target but lacked power and de Gea saved comfortably.
Less comfortable for De Gea was another beautiful long-range effort from Gray. The keeper had to be at his very best to tip that one over.
Rooney came on for United to replace Rashford but by that stage all the players were going through the motions. For Leicester fans there was the smallest crumb of comfort in keeping a clean sheet in the second half.
Ranieri was clearly vexed about the defending at corners. “We must be smarter and concentrate” he said. Absolutely. But some thought must be given to how we approach away matches where we are outnumbered in midfield. Drinkwater ran his socks off yesterday, winning tackles and starting attacks. But he needs more support.
Manchester United De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Blind, Ander Herrera, Pogba, Lingard, Mata, Rashford, Ibrahimovic.
Subs Romero, Rojo, Rooney, Carrick, Young, Fosu-Mensah, Fellaini.
Leicester Zieler, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Mahrez, Amartey, Drinkwater, Albrighton, Vardy, Slimani.
Subs Hamer, Hernandez, King, Schlupp, Okazaki, Gray, Ulloa.
Referee Mike Dean (Wirral)
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation