Manchester United’s unbeaten run under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continued on Sunday as they edged past Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.
Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba delivered their eighth and 12th attacking returns respectively since the Norwegian manager took charge in Gameweek 18, while David de Gea led the United defence to a third straight clean sheet away from home.
We round up the main Fantasy talking points, key manager quotes and headline injury news from today’s first Premier League match.
Leicester City 0-1 Manchester United
- Goal: Marcus Rashford (£7.7m)
- Assist: Paul Pogba (£8.6m)
Owners of Marcus Rashford (£7.7m) and Paul Pogba (£8.6m) were indebted to Leicester City’s now customary slow start as the widely owned pair combined to score the game’s only goal after nine minutes of Manchester United’s meeting with the Foxes on Sunday.
Rashford’s strike from a superb Pogba pass was the fifth goal that the Foxes have conceded in the opening 15 minutes in the last four Gameweeks alone and had been coming – Rashford wasting a glorious headed opportunity from a Luke Shaw (£5.0m) cross on four minutes and then testing Kasper Schmeichel (£5.0m) from a short corner soon after.
Leicester will again be ruing their sluggish start because, as they proved at Anfield in midweek, the Foxes have come to be a real force to be reckoned with when facing “big six” sides.
The Foxes were again possibly deserving of a point against the Red Devils, recording more attempts on goal and shots in the box than their visitors and forcing David de Gea (£5.7m) into six saves.
While this wasn’t quite the siege that United faced at Wembley, there were similarities between this latest victory and their 1-0 success against Spurs in Gameweek 22.
De Gea tipped a Rachid Ghezzal (£5.0m) free-kick round the post and twice denied Jamie Vardy (£8.8m), once from a bicycle kick that he clawed back from the goal-line at the second attempt.
Jonny Evans (£4.8m) also produced an air-kick from a Harry Maguire (£5.4m) knock-down and James Maddison (£6.6m) was denied by a superb Shaw block as Leicester exerted pressure on the United goal, with Solskjaer’s troops not really carving out another clear-cut chance after Rashford’s match-winning strike.
Rashford was again United’s most threatening attacker in a restrained offensive display, being deployed in a more central role and racking up more shots on goal (five) than any other player on show.
Owners of the fit-again Anthony Martial (£7.2m) would have been disappointed to see the French midfielder only among the substitutes but his long-term first-team prospects look brighter after an ineffective showing from Alexis Sanchez (£10.0m) on the Chilean’s first league start since Gameweek 11.
Rashford struggled on the left flank against Burnley on Wednesday, too, so Martial and his owners will be quietly confident of a recall when his side visit Fulham next weekend.
Nevertheless, Solskjaer said of Sanchez’s performance:
I thought he did well but we had to change the game [when he was substituted]. He was sharp when we could get him in. He worked really well defensively. We never created chances for him but he’s coming, he’s improving all the time.
The assist and one barnstorming second-half surge through the Leicester spine aside, this was perhaps as ineffective as Pogba has been since Solskjaer took charge and he occasionally looked sloppy both with and without possession.
His owners will care little, of course, as he has now racked up 76 FPL points in the last eight Gameweeks at an average of 9.5 points per match.
Pogba’s manager unsurprisingly saw the positives in his performance:
I think he can look back on these games and say that he is on his way. Paul is a fantastic midfielder and he can always improve and he’s one of those lads who wants to improve and he wants to see this game and wants to see what he could have done better. He’s playing more or less every minute, so of course, now the recovery in between games will be important for him.
Both Pogba and Rashford required treatment from the United physio during the game but appeared to run off their respective knocks, with Pogba completing the full 90 minutes and Rashford moving freely when substituted in the final quarter of an hour.
Solskjaer confirmed in his post-match press conference that Rashford had only been suffering from a “dead leg” early on but was able to carry on.
Shaw impressed in attack and in defence as United recorded their third clean sheet in the last five Gameweeks: no other Premier League side has as many in 2019.
Solskjaer said of his side’s defensive efforts:
We know we can play better but you can’t play fantasy football every time and today we could have controlled the game more. But when we didn’t, we fought for the next ball, we fought for our mates next to us, we put our heads on the line, we put our bodies on the line and it was a great defensive performance from inside the box I have to say.
There were a couple of bruised noses and knees, and dead legs. They fought for their three points today. I think we deserved it in that respect. In the second half when we could have controlled it more, we could have slowed it down. But we defended really well. Eric [Bailly] and Victor [Lindelof] were fantastic and David [de Gea] again of course.
If you have the foundation of a clean sheet you’ll always be in with a chance to win a game and we’ve got a keeper that saves us, we’ve got a back four that sacrifices everything in the box, a couple of midfielders who made a couple of great blocks, that was absolutely amazing to watch and the attitude has been spot on ever since I came.
Youngster Harvey Barnes (£5.5m), who was brought into the Leicester starting XI for the injured Marc Albrighton (£5.1m) in Claude Puel’s only change, performed admirably on the left flank without reward, with Maddison another to catch the eye in the number ten role.
Ricardo Pereira (£5.3m) will no doubt be a popular buy when Leicester’s fixtures turn for the better in Gameweek 27 but Ben Chilwell (£5.0m) was just as much of an attacking threat from full-back on Sunday, registering more touches in the final third than any other player on show.
Puel said of his side’s display:
A lot of frustration again because we had a poor performance at the beginning of the game. We have had the first good ball and first good recovery but all the time we didn’t take our responsibility to play forward and take the space and put them under pressure.
At the same time, we played laterally or behind but yes, it was poor about our intention, I don’t know why. When we played forward, we gave good support with good attack.
In the second half, it was interesting, better, with a lot of pressure, good impact, good quality in the play with a lot of chances.
I think at the end it’s not a fair result because we deserved a draw, perhaps more.
The Leicester boss also gave an update on Albrighton before kick-off:
It’s bad news with Marc. He had an injury yesterday with his hamstring so he cannot play this game.
Finally, Puel confirmed that new signing Youri Tielemans (£6.0m) may be able to feature next weekend:
He made one training session with us. He knows the team, he knows how we can play.
He has a full week [of training] next week and I hope we can use him in the next game.
Leicester City XI (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Ricardo, Maguire, Evans, Chilwell; Ndidi, Mendy (Iheanacho 84′); Barnes, Maddison (Ghezzal 62′), Gray (Okazaki 74′); Vardy.
Manchester United XI (4-3-3): De Gea; Young, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard (Jones 89′), Rashford (Lukaku 77′), Sanchez (Martial 67′).