Category: Manchester United

Premier League: Top 4 Contenders Reviewed

Can we rule out Chelsea after the efforts (or lack thereof) in recent weeks and particularly on Saturday? Is the top 4 set just 6 weeks into the season? We take a look at each of the current team’s chances of reaching the Champions League next term. Note to clubs: You need ten points minimum to qualify for our analysis after match day 6, and conveniently that is a top 8.

Manchester City – Current Position: 1st
Don’t they start seasons well? Reminiscent of last year, but seem to have a fair bit more about them this time around. Look the real deal, and it’s disingenuous to include them in discussions about the top 4 when it seems they will win the league comfortably. Kevin de Bruyne’s injury on the weekend may hamper them for games against Tottenham and Everton, but Pep Guardiola has flagged Raheem Sterling as the man to step up. And with 4 goals in 6 games so far, you wouldn’t put it past him. If Vincent Kompany can stay injury-free, and Sergio Aguero continue scoring for fun, it’s a matter of how far City. Predicted Finish: 1st.

Tottenham – Current Position: 2nd
The only other undefeated team, and despite a slow start with two draws in three games to open the season. Certainly have added more depth this season. The risk is that Champions League football is too draining, but maintain current form and they are every chance of pushing City next weekend, as well as throughout the season. Don’t rely on one or two players anymore and have barely missed a beat since Harry Kane’s unfortunate injury. The next few weeks will be crucial if they hope to hang to both the unbeaten streak and top 4 chances. Predicted Finish: 4th.

Arsenal – Current Position: 3rd
A 3-0 belting of London rivals Chelsea on Saturday was quite the statement. Any questions over Arsene Wenger have been put to bed, at least for the time being. Shkodran Mustafi looks a class defender and forms a back pair with Koscielny that the Gunners have been desperate for. Shouldn’t concede as they have in the past if these two stay on the pitch. At times they looked far too good for the Premier League at the weekend, let alone too good for Chelsea. Maintain their best form and a top 2 finish beckons. Predicted Finish: 2nd.

Liverpool – Current Position: 4th
With so many goal scoring options and Jurgen Klopp at the helm, it’s been a sight to behold with Liverpool in full flight. Save for a poor loss at Burnley, they have been nothing short of electrifying in the front half. Yet the defence and consistency appears the difference between a potential top 4 finish and just missing. We think they have too many threats up front though, and that this will cover for any failings at the back. Predicted Finish: 3rd.

Everton – Current Position: 5th
Potentially the biggest manager move in the off-season was Ronald Koeman coming in at Everton. What an effect he has had, turning a talented yet severely underperforming Everton squad into one that now actually plays. Came back to Earth on the weekend, and may not quite have the depth of talent to finish in the four. But they’re a massive threat, and will push hard at least for a Europa League return. Predicted Finish: 7th

Manchester United – Current Position: 6th
It was back to the Manchester United of old on the weekend. Consistency is an issue though, not to mention what Mourinho will do with Rooney. Half an hour of football produced in the first half on Saturday was the best we’ve witnessed in 12 months. At their best, and with such weapons of Ibra and Rashford up front, they could be unstoppable. At their best, they can rival the best of Arsenal and Liverpool. But the soft underbelly remains. We think they might just miss the 4. Predicted Finish: 5th.

Crystal Palace – Current Position: 7th
Another strong start to the season for Alan Pardew’s men with ten points. Three wins in a row will prove crucial as we’ve seen what happens when Palace or Pardew teams get on a poor run. Should definitely avoid relegation, and aim for a top half finish. The Townsend and Benteke combination will be crucial for goals, if they can develop an understanding then the bottom three will be out of the equation. Predicted Finish: 11th

Chelsea – Current Position: 8th
From what we’ve seen so far, Conte’s Chelsea is not too much better than the Mourinho/Hiddink’s equivalent. It’s hard to see them making up enough ground to finish in the top four, when it had seemed a possibility early. Glimpses of improvement early have been replaced by a shocking performance against a rampant Arsenal. Until the Blues bring in defensive reinforcements, it seems impossible for them to challenge for anything other than the Europa League. Predicted Finish: 6th

Manchester United v Leicester – First Half – Play By Play

Rashford looks lively early. Long balls over the top seem the order of the day for United. Mata is dangerous, taking an early cross that is punched away by Zieler. Morgan yells at the defence, he looks angry. Pogba sends Rashford through with a cute pass that Zieler cleans up. Looks like Schmeichel’s understudy is going to have work to do.
Valencia makes a mistake and Albrighton hits poorly on his left. Leicester starting to pay. Mahrez tries a run but it’s defended. Albrighton with a cross that finds only red. De Gea clears with poise. Leicester have definitely lifted, they’re getting the ball in dangerous areas all of a sudden. Fuchs on the left is a key. Mahrez involved in every play.

Another throw in. Break-neck speed, Amartey trying to pick out Fuchs. Short corner, half the Leicester team involved. Fuchs is everywhere. Huth beats Ibra. End to end. These teams are evenly matched all of a sudden. United slow it down and retain possession. Maybe that’s smart. But they lose possession. Pogba shows his talent. Corner for Blind. Smalling goal, United 1-0, Captain’s goal, Against the run of play only of the last few moments, but a goal was going to come. Half way through the first half.

Slimani gets a touch – is it his first? Long range free kick, never threatened but somehow a corner. It came off Pogba. He looks better than he has at any point this season. Corner cleared, poor loss of possession from Drinkwater. Rashford way over the bar but clever from Ibrahimovic. United dominating now, utterly, Ibra getting up and using his strength/height. Ashford tries a ridiculous overhead bicycle. Pogba. Blind. Rashford. Pogba. Ibra. Misses. Wow. They’re back. Less than half an hour in.

Pogba from long range. He’s bossing the game. Zieler under massive pressure. He will be tested again. Now Simpson screams at his co-defenders. Foxes are opening up, they’re confused and only Fuchs on the left is holding his own. Ball goes forward at the blue end but it’s far from convincing. Numbers get back and they are forced to clear again. Somehow, how did it happen so quickly.

Mata goal. Brilliant. 2-0 and it’s what they deserve. Pogba and Lingard set it up. 37 minutes in and it’s the United of old. The United of Week 1-2 not Week 4-5. Breathtaking. Who needs Rooney.

3-0. Rashford, who else. How can he ever be left out of the team. Another corner, another Leicester mistake. Mata assist and tap in for Marcus. This is no longer a contest. What a display. Albrighton isn’t on the same pitch. It’s total domination.

Yet another corner…only 41 in, surely no more. Blind, it’s 4! POGBA. Amazing. Unbelievable. The set piece specialists, Fuchs not strong enough, a shame for the man who showed at least a bit going forward early. But this is all about Manchester United and by how far. No time to take a breath, no more yelling from the Foxes. They look shocked and have nowhere to go. It’s understandable.

Mourinho has done it, we were skeptical and he’s made fools of us all. The changes have worked. 44 minutes, apparently Vardy is playing. He’s had not an opportunity. Free kick at left full back, 2 minutes added time. Ranieri looking glum. You win some, you dilly don’t some. Half time but it may as well be the final whistle. Wow.

Rooney Dropped

“The main question should be why are Rashford and Lingard in,” Jose Mourinho suggested in response to questions as to why Wayne Rooney has been dropped from the starting eleven. Two young English players in, amidst Mourinho’s claims that Ibrahimovic is the number one striker. The real story though is Rooney’s absence. 

He’s had a poor start to the season and is not the player he was, but his withdrawal from the line up at such a late stage has the potential to completely destabilise the team. Leicester will be licking their lips whilst the game seems more and more to have moved past Mourinho. Are his self-harm tactics detrimental to the squad he owns? 

More to follow…

Premier League Preview: Manchester United v Leicester City

We preview the early fixture and game of the round on Premier League Matchday 6 as Manchester United host Leicester.

Form:
Off the back of a horrid run of three consecutive defeats, including two in the league, Manchester United ended their losing streak with a comfortable (if at times unconvincing) 3-1 over Nottingham Forest.
League Form: W, W, W, L, L. (7th position in League)

After a slow start, Leicester have bounced back to somewhere near the form that brought them ultimate success last term. An inaugural Champions League win followed a belting of Burnley, before being overrun by Chelsea in the League Cup. Nonetheless, they are certainly playing much better football than their opponents leading in to this clash.
League Form: L, D, W, L, W. (11th position in League)

Line-Ups:
Will Rooney and Rashford both start for United? There weren’t too many stand outs amongst the squad players (apart from Rashford when coming on) in the win over Nottingham so Rooney may get a reprieve. We expect Luke Shaw to get another chance at left full back, but cannot be so sure about Anthony Martial with Henrik Mkhitaryan returning from injury. Will Mourinho ring the changes or stick with the tried and tested? We’re plumping for somewhere in between, with Rooney our for Rashford sure to be the main talking point.

Manchester United: De Gea, Shaw, Smalling, Bailly, Valencia, Mkhitaryan, Pogba, Fellaini, Rashford, Rooney, Ibrahimovic.

Shine Okazaki’s two goals against Chelsea keeps him firmly in the frame to start for Claudio Ranieri’s Champions. But with Islam Sliming also coming in for his own brace last weekend against Burnley, the manager suddenly has great depth up front. Kasper Schmeichel should also return in goal, with Danny Simpson likely holding his place at right back over Luis Hernandez.

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Fuchs, Huth, Morgan, Simpson, Albrighton, Drinkwater, Amartey, Mahrez, Slimani, Vardy.

The Match:
The fast, flowing football that Jose Mourinho promised of his side in the early weeks seems to have dissipated in recent times. They cannot afford to rely solely on Ibrahimovic and Rashford for inspiration, and need a strong showing all across the pitch to take anything away from this game.

Leicester’s counter attacking approach has the potential to be devastating, especially if United’s ball movement remains slow and indirect. If they can get the ball over the back with Vardy and Slimani running on, it could be a matter of how far Leicester.

Mourinho however has had ample time to study Ranieri’s methods and will no doubt back himself and his team to overcome the challenge. An intriguing battle of contrasting styles beckons.

Prediction:
Both of these sides appear able to either scoring and/or conceding for fun in recent weeks, so we’re unlikely to see a goalless draw. Playing at Old Trafford, United are strong favourites with the bookies. But we all know that means nothing to the Foxes, and they will back themselves to at least come away with an invaluable point.

Daily Football Blog Prediction: Manchester United 2 – 2 Leicester City

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