Manchester United finally earned a Premier League win after three consecutive draws, beating Leicester City 3-0 with goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Juan Mata. United started the match in a 4-4-2 formation with Mkhitaryan and Mata as narrow wingers and Ibrahimovic pairing Marcus Rashford up front. The system quickly evolved into a 4-4-1-1 formation with Mkhitaryan behind Ibrahimovic, and this funded United’s best football.
Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly, clearly chosen to play as pacey central defenders in United’s system by Jose Mourinho, both looked great, and it was fantastic to see Smalling playing well again and picking up an assist, as well as putting Bailly’s injury fears to rest as he kept Jamie Vardy frustrated and completely out of the game.
United set up in a 4-4-2 for the first time in years, and the early results looked good, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata forming a narrow midfield and Zlatan Ibrahimovic pairing Marcus Rashford up top. The result was a very open game, with less possession of the ball for United, but more progression when United had the ball.
Marcus Rashford was offered a solid opportunity in the 23rd minute after a great succession of play from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Antonio Valencia, but he couldn’t keep the ball down and it blazed over the bar as a result.
Rashford had another good chance in the 35th minute, as Paul Pogba opened an angle for the teenager to shoot from range. However, Kasper Schmeichel did incredibly well to stop his effort, a low drive towards the bottom left post.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan finally capitalized on the open game with a fantastic goal, after a mistake from Robert Huth allowed Mkhitaryan to pounce, dribble up the pitch, and score an important goal for United. Ibrahimovic quickly made it 2-0 after an Antonio Valencia cross was easily buried by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
United earned a third after the half through Juan Mata, who latched onto a gorgeous ball from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and made the score 3-0. Mkhitaryan, seemingly exploding again, did very well to lose his markers and allow Mata to play through.
A wonderful ball from Daley Blind played Mata through on goal, onside, but he made a hash of his chance after a wonderful run. Perhaps he was too close to the goalkeeper, though, because the ball was intended for Marcus Rashford, who intelligently stepped out-of-the-way after a poorly timed run.
After that, though, the most exciting event of the match was seeing Ashley Young in action on the wing for the first time in a couple of months. United comfortably dispatched Leicester without hitting top gear, perhaps discovering a new system and moving a point from Liverpool, two from Arsenal in fourth, and five from Tottenham in second. With Spurs playing Liverpool next week and Arsenal playing banana-peel side Hull City, this could be the perfect opportunity for United to claim their place right in the mix with a win over Watford. Taking their chances the way they did today, United will make the top four without a doubt.
Goals: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 42′, Zlatan Ibrahimovic 44′, Juan Mata 49′
Assists: Chris Smalling 42′, Antonio Valencia 44′, Henrikh Mkhitaryan 49′
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Rojo (Blind 46′); Herrera, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Mata (Fellaini 77′), Rashford (Young 83′); Ibrahimovic
Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Lingard, Carrick; Martial
Bookings: Juan Mata 28′, Ander Herrera 55′, Paul Pogba 56′, David De Gea 88′