Manchester United produced a scintillating performance to dispatch Leicester with four first half goals, with Marcus Rashford, Chris Smalling, Juan Mata and Paul Pogba scoring to ensure the Premier League Champions wouldn’t win at Old Trafford this season. Fans particularly enjoyed the performances of Daley Blind and Ander Herrera, despite the fact Pogba took home the man of the match award. Fans also enjoyed the goal and assist from Juan Mata, proving a lot of United supporters who doubted him very, very wrong.
Manchester United’s performance was one with a lot of attacking football, but that wouldn’t have been possible without the defensive work of Eric Bailly. Aggressive in his approach, Bailly carried the ball out of defence and allowed Ander Herrera to transition the ball to the forwards. Without Bailly, United likely would’ve conceded multiple goals in defence and lacked the aggression needed to win the ball back against the likes of Islam Slimani and Jamie Vardy. Incredibly, Bailly completed three tackles, seven interceptions, and eight clearances, even completing 88% of his 58 passes.
Jamie Vardy thought it would be a good idea to target Daley Blind, playing left-back, as a weakness in United’s defence. Commentators around the world praised his decision, which was oh-so-wrong. Blind was excellent in defence, winning every ball, using his intelligence and positional awareness to get forward and picking up two assists from the corner flag. Defensively, he completed four tackles and attempted eight crosses from the left-wing, which was very important in United’s play because he was the one to provide the width for Marcus Rashford to move centrally.
Juan Mata and Paul Pogba dovetailed superbly to create chances galore for United’s three forwards, but neither would’ve been able to do so without the quietly excellent work from Ander Herrera in midfield. Herrera worked hard to win the ball back, completing a remarkable six interceptions. He also used his excellent passing to feed the ball through to United’s creative players, attempting 89 passes and completing almost 90% of them. Often, in advanced positions, Herrera can look lightweight because of his occasional inability to move the ball further forward, but in deep positions, he’s a metronomic player who can control the game. Jose Mourinho has clearly done defensive work with him as well, which means he can occupy the deeper areas more often. It makes him a better midfielder than he already was, which is a frightening prospect for opposition considering he was already a cracking player.
A month into his Manchester United career, things weren’t yet looking great for Paul Pogba, and it was beginning to seem as if the Frenchman would need a while to settle in to his surroundings. Saturday’s match against Leicester changed that, though, as Pogba scored his first goal in United red and won the man of the match award. Pogba attempted a grand 99 passes and completed 3 key passes. He was one of the hardest-working players on the pitch, too, he completed the most passes and was the conductor of United’s orchestra, and hopefully he’ll continue similar form throughout the season.
There have been many times in which I doubted whether or not Mata would find his form on a consistent basis at United. He looked good as the right-winger in Louis van Gaal’s first season, but that form soon faded away with the rest of United. Yesterday, Mata finally looked great, finishing off moves, putting them together and orchestrating United’s play. He was very tidy with the ball as well, completing 90% of his passes and moving the ball forward in most situations. He also worked harder than he did at Chelsea, and if he maintains that level of performance, he will be one of the best players in Jose Mourinho’s era at United, and I could even see him wearing the armband with his wonderful attitude and passion for the club.