Manchester United enter this weekend’s Premier League fixture in quite the precarious position- failing to take a guilt-edged opportunity to reduce the gap between themselves and the top four with a draw against Hull City, United is in desperate need of a win to resume their Champions League challenge. Travelling to Leicester City, who have also been poor all season, Jose Mourinho’s men will have high hopes for a win, but it is easy to forget that the Foxes were Premier League champions last year, are currently tearing up the Champions League, and have produced a few scintillating performances this season.
United is in need of points, and quick, and without a win against Leicester City, the realism behind a top four finish will become even more of a challenge for a side that looks tired and still is participating in four competitions. Key players will need to perform, especially after failing to do so against Hull, and Leicester’s main threats must be kept quiet. Otherwise, it will be easy for United to get lost in the support of the King Power Stadium and drop more points at the hands of Leicester.
Islam Slimani, Striker, Leicester City
Leicester’s newest striker, Islam Slimani, has adjusted to Premier League football in a better fashion than some may have expected since his move from Portugal, earning a respectable seven goals from 18 appearances, especially considering the Foxes’ inability to score goals compared to last season. While United fans detest Jamie Vardy for his diving antics against United on multiple occasions, Slimani possesses a completely different kind of threat, looking to use his aerial prowess and power to score goals. Most notably, though, he played with Marcos Rojo at Sporting, and will likely face up against his old teammate again, proving to be an interesting test for the Argentinean.
Danny Drinkwater, Midfielder, Leicester City
While Drinkwater hasn’t been anything near the force he was for Leicester last season, he remains one of United’s most successful youth exports in the Premier League, playing an integral role for Leicester in the Champions League and last year’s Premier League. The British midfielder will be eager to impress for Leicester against his former team, and he will want to take control of the game and assert his dominance over a slightly inconsistent United team. Averaging 62 passes per 90 minutes for a side that doesn’t hold much of the ball, it is abundantly clear that Drinkwater maintains a very large influence on this side, positive or negative.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Winger, Manchester United
Contrary to popular belief, I think Mkhitaryan has been quite underwhelming since his goal against Tottenham Hotspur- however, I don’t think it’s his fault. Wingers in Manchester United’s system are not involved in the match enough, which perfectly explains United’s inability to stretch the pitch, and Anthony Martial’s inability to impress Jose Mourinho, despite looking very good on the ball. Mkhitaryan is suffering from these same problems, except in a match against Leicester City, I think he can play a key role in a central area.
Allowing Mkhitaryan to replace Ander Herrera in the centre of the park could be exactly the tool needed to unlock the smaller Premier League sides. Mkhitaryan is very solid defensively, which many people have surprisingly not realised, and incredibly skillful moving forward, but I think he would do better in a more influential role on the pitch, dovetailing with Paul Pogba and trying to create chances. Leicester’s 4-4-2 system should allow for United to have a midfield advantage over Leicester, and Mkhitaryan is the perfect player to take advantage of this.
Anthony Martial, Winger, Manchester United
While criticisms of Mourinho’s team selections from fans on social media can be quite gruelling to endure on a weekly basis, the questions asked of the manager when Anthony Martial was dropped were completely rational. Arguably the best player on the pitch against Wigan, earning two assists, Martial was immediately benched for United’s match against Hull, and Jose Mourinho decided to bring on the misfiring Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata instead of him to try and change the game.
However, the underperformances of these players, combined with my hopeful belief that Mkhitaryan will be deployed centrally on Sunday, lead me to believe Anthony Martial could be ready for a blinding performance against Leicester. Determined to impress the manager again, Martial will be reintroduced to the lineup with the hope of a spectacular performance that could carry United above Leicester.