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Preview: Manchester United aiming to sweep Leicester City aside in their Premier League opener

Manchester United open the new Premier League season at Old Trafford on Friday evening, welcoming Leicester City to the Theatre of Dreams. After a long summer, which seems to have been thwarted by the FIFA World Cup and a lack of transfer activity, Jose Mourinho will lead a largely unchanged side into the new season. United signed Diogo Dalot, Fred, and Lee Grant this summer.

Mourinho will be seeking a good start from his team this season. Last season, United won their three opening fixtures against West Ham United (4-0), Swansea City (4-0), and Leicester City (2-0). It was the fourth match of the season where the club slipped up, drawing 2-2 against Stoke City, conceding their first two goals of the season and dropping two points.

The summer transfer window showed a lot of promise with many players being linked to the club, none of them coming into fruition, for whatever reason. Mourinho has not been handed the backing from the club’s board but he will need to get on with the job in hand. United have some great players in their squad with plenty of balance. Having that player to secure the defence will need to be found within, though.

United’s pre-season of the United States of America and Germany was no the best either, with 15 players missing from the tour because of the World Cup and injury, which saw many youth players being given important minutes in their development. Pre-season was never about results anyway, just fitness. Alexis Sanchez will be the biggest winner of pre-season, having a restful summer for the first time in years.

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Team News: Mourinho boosted by the return of World Cup start but injuries have also mounted early

Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young, Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku all returned to training at the start of the week after an extended break following the FIFA World Cup. Marcus Rashford, Phil Jones, and Victor Lindelof all returned last weekend and played a part in the 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the final pre-season match of the summer.

It is unclear whether Pogba, Fellaini, Young, Lingard, and Lukaku will play any part against Leicester on Friday evening and the availability of Anthony Martial is questionable after he missed the matches against AC Milan, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. He did return to training late last week though.

Mourinho will be without Sergio Romero, Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo, Diogo Dalot, Ander Herrera, and Nemanja Matic, who are all injured. New summer signings Lee Grant and Fred will be available for the Premier League opener, as will Andreas Pereira, who spent last season on loan with Valencia, and will, in effect, be like a new signing at the club.

Leicester City could have problems to contend with also with injury causing many players to be doubts for the match. Matty James, Nampalys Mendy are both injured, whilst James Maddison could overcome a knock. Harry Maguire, Jamie Vardy, Jonny Evans and Demarai Gray could all have late decisions made on them by Claude Puel.

Filip Benkovic, who signed for Leicester on deadline day will be available, as with other new recruits Ricardo Pereira and Rachid Ghezzal. Both teams will be sure to put out the strongest team they can as both will be seeking an opening day victory, putting early pressure on champions Manchester City, who open their season in the final match of the weekend on Sunday at Arsenal.

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Match Statistics: Manchester United v Leicester City – Premier League

  • Manchester United are unbeaten in their last seven Premier League matches against Leicester City, winning four times and drawing three times. Of the 18 matches played in the top flight, United have lost once, winning 13 and drawing four.
  • Playing at Old Trafford, Leicester have lost seven of their eight visits, drawing once. They have scored a total of three goals in those matches.
  • United have won their opening Premier League match more times than any other team in this history of the league, winning 17 opening matches in the 26 seasons played. This will be the start of the 27th season of the Premier League.
  • United and Leicester met on the opening day of the Premier League at the start of the treble-winning 1998/99 season. United came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at the Theatre of Dreams.
  • This is only the second time in Premier League history that the league has opened in a Friday evening. Leicester have been involved in both openers. Last season, Leicester were defeated 4-3 at Arsenal.
  • Against Leicester, United’s Juan Mata has scored the most goals in the Premier League, scoring four goals in the last four appearances against the Foxes. Only one of the four goals was scored at Old Trafford though.

Predicted Starting XI: Fred to make his Premier League debut

Match Prediction: Manchester United to cruise to victory in the Premier League season opener

This has all the ingredients to be a good match. Both United and Leicester will be seeking an opening day victory. The pressure will be on Mourinho’s United and I don’t think the Portuguese manager would have it any other way. Leicester will throw everything they can at United. Mourinho’s side can be caught on the counter, which could expose them. Mourinho will be aiming to keep his defence tight.

Leicester will no doubt be weakened by the departure of Riyad Mahrez, who left for Manchester City earlier in the summer. Claude Puel will be seeking to put pressure on Mourinho by leaving the Theatre of Dreams with three points, heaping more pressure on Mourinho, who is the bookies choice as the first manager to be sacked this season.

However, Mourinho will love to be seen as the underdog. The treatment he has received from the media this summer, after a strong season with United, where they finished second and kept that position for the majority of the season, seemingly with some journalists and pundits talking as if United had been relegated, not cruised into second for the first time post-Sir Alex Ferguson.

I feel that Mourinho has the know how to get a result in this sort of match. Last season, United failed to finish teams off, which cost them a lot last season. This season, Mourinho and his players will need to dig deep and show inspiration in overcoming these teams, starting with Leicester. United lost twice at Old Trafford in the league last season, 2-1 to Manchester City and 1-0 to West Bromwich Albion.

Manchester United 2-0 Leicester City

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